Over thirty years ago, Charles Wise was called into full-time vocational ministry. He embraced that calling and began to pursue the education required to become a licensed counselor. Little did he know at that point, though, the twists and turns that a call into ministry may contain.
Over twenty years ago, Charles founded his first counseling ministry, followed fifteen years ago by the foundation of Pathway Counseling Ministries. Charles had a unique vision for Pathway Counseling. Instead of operating as an independent counseling office, it would become an integrated auxiliary of the local church. It was the first ministry of its kind in the United States. Granted a special status by the IRS, Pathway was officially tethered to any local church that wanted to partner with it. Pathway would provide the counseling for a church and its membership; the church would provide space for meeting rooms, referrals, and often cost subsidies. Pathway never wanted to turn anyone away due to cost. So this arrangement allowed Pathway to keeps counseling costs at a minimum while it provided numerous opportunities for people needing the counseling it offered.
All of this ran extremely well for years. Pathway expanded and partnered with more and more churches in the Central Florida area. It even branched into Chattanooga, Tennessee for another network of church partnerships. About ten years ago, though, something strange happened. Charles Wise lost his voice. Now, for a counselor, the inability to speak is quite a handicap. Charles didn’t just lose his voice for a few days or even a few weeks. His vocal paralysis lasted for an entire year. A counselor who could not counsel. The ministry itself stayed afloat, due to the other counselors on staff. But Charles was put in the awkward position of just listening.
Amazing things happen when someone can only listen. There are incredible things to be heard. During the year that Charles was sidelined, he spent a lot of time praying and listening to God. He listened to the people around him. He listened to countless ministers. And he began to hear a common thread through everything. Mankind was created for intimacy with God. But man no longer had that, due to the sins and distractions of the world. The counterfeits that Satan offered was too effective. So people were floundering. But God, more than anything, still wanted that intimacy back.
Charles began to share this message with some of his friends and supporters in ministry. And his voice returned. As it did, Charles knew that something more needed to be done. As admirable of a ministry that Pathway Counseling was, it was not able to fully communicate the message of this restoration of intimacy. So Charles’ focus began to change. He began to minister more to the ministers he had befriended over the years through Pathway’s efforts. He co-founded other ministries that would communicate the messages of intimacy and warn of the counterfeits blocking it. Defender Ministries was launched to equip families and churches to address and battle the damaging effects of pornography, technology, media, and entertainment. While there is good to be found in technology and media, there are also so many pitfalls. Even just the time people devote to things like social media rob them of the time to focus on true intimacy with God or others. Pathway and its sub ministries conducted men’s conferences and men’s retreats to encourage men to lead their families through love, faith, and intimacy. Discipleship was another goal that Pathway pursued - developing ways to grow Christians beyond their point of salvation.
But Charles’ heart continued to stay with pastors. He encountered so many ministers that had quit the ministry. They had burned out under the weight of impossible expectations. They were driven away by congregations who no longer wanted them or by egomaniacal pastors who wanted something bigger and better. A large number had experienced moral and ethical failure. They were isolated and without accountability, so the lies whispered in their ears took root and took them down. Others began to “believe their own hype” and developed narcissistic qualities, leading them to insulate and elevate themselves. The end result for all of them, though, was wreckage. Charles desperately wanted to restore, renew, and refresh these servants. He was accomplishing this through one-on-one meetings. But he also wanted to expand the efforts.
This led to the development of The Retreat: Pathway to Restoration. This is a time where a group of ministers will retreat together with counselors to rediscover their calling, to be refreshed and renewed, and to gain restoration. Not every minister at The Retreat would be one who suffered failure. But they all would be ones who needed God to heal and comfort them. They all would be searching for something to bring them back to those days when the calling was new and exciting. They all would need to rediscover intimacy with the God they love and serve. This event will be small, private, and confidential. It will be offered several times during a year in locations around the country. The goal is to see the servants of God to find that spark that set them on fire for God. And as they return home, newly restored, they can offer that same message to those they encounter.