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Why Personal Growth?

When I attended my first personal growth retreat, I was miserable. When I first became a Christian in late 1971, I experienced a love, joy and peace that nothing on earth can duplicate. The Spirit filled my God-shaped vacuum and I was convinced I had found what the whole world yearned for as it endlessly looked to fill its voracious need for love in all the wrong places. But by 1979, that profound sense of awe, the romantic phase of my relationship with God, had long since evaporated. I was frustrated by my failures in both ministry and my marriage. I desperately wanted something to eliminate my lust. I thought a Christian retreat would finally take away all my unrighteous desires and I could overcome all my sins, excesses and failures before they messed me up further.

 I now know that no one event, no matter how powerful, can ever make us perfect. Healing or sanctification or self-actualization – whatever you call our on-going trek towards wholeness – is just that: a heroic lifetime journey. However, every journey begins with one step, and that retreat gave me much more than a baby step. It set my life on a road to self-development and improvement that paid immediate dividends in every facet of my life and continues to do so today. In fact, I shudder to think of what my life would be like had I not taken that first giant leap forward in my own personal and spiritual evolution.

 When I attended that first retreat my romance with my wife was also over and I found myself constantly battling ‘the lust of the eyes’. Though I hadn’t actually committed adultery, I had done so in my heart countless times and I was quite sure I would do so some time soon in actuality if I didn’t change something fast. The ‘cure’ was not what I expected. With God, it never is. I am quite certain He delights in working in mysterious and often quite contrary ways to what we anticipate.

 He solved my problem when the issue surfaced at the retreat through a sudden, unexpected infatuation with a married woman. What made her so appealing was not her physical beauty, though she was quite a looker, it was the listening skills we learned there. All my life I wanted someone to hear me, to draw me out, to pay attention to my deepest longings and help me understand myself as only a great listener can. Being an only child made me particularly lonely and vulnerable to someone who cared. Though my parents loved me their best, open communication was stifled at home. My father was a rage-aholic. The last thing he wanted was to hear what I said. As a child, I was frequently told to ‘Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about’; to not ‘talk back’; to not even look at dad ‘funny’ or with any honest anger or hurt.

 The pastoral ministry compounded my problem. Any leadership is lonely but a profession that expects you to be the resident holy man is even worse. Many seminarians are taught NOT to have close friendships in the church, and for good reason. Jealousy, church politics and gossip make it simply not worth it. The ministry can be the loneliest of occupations.

 When this temptation at the retreat surfaced, the woman quickly sensed it and avoided me. This forced me to either bear my own humiliation or take a risk. Most of the great work at a retreat like this happens in small groups. When I got up the nerve to share my ridiculous infatuation and struggles with lust, my group heard me out, didn’t condemn me, and instead offered me that elusive commodity we call unconditional love. Most churches and Christians seem so bent on addressing our sins that this most precious of all experiences is woefully lacking in the church. That experience, along with the remarkably open and vulnerable leadership of the retreat leaders opened me up to a whole new world of relational growth, wholeness and nurture.

 I learned that I lusted not so much for sexual intimacy but for emotional and relational connection. I also discovered that I had legitimate reasons for my neediness – I had never recovered from my grandfather’s death, never even finished grieving his loss 20 hears earlier. Because of that and the pain of other times when I had opened myself to love only to be rejected, I had built an impenetrable wall around my heart. No wonder I couldn’t succeed at church or in my marriage. I had erected enormous barriers against ever being hurt again.

 Learning to listen and to risk being totally open with a small group of people changed my life. I would never again settle for quarter inch deep relationships. I could no longer feign perfection as a pastor, nor demand it of others. I had to be as real as the Apostle Paul and King David, as transparent as the Psalmist, as authentic as Jesus’ spontaneous disciple Peter. And I had to develop the kind of small groups in my church that would let me and those I loved find wholeness, nurture, care and yes, even healing for our deepest hurts.

 If the church were more like that, who would hate Christianity? If we modeled the unconditional love of God who could reject it? If we built such a place of healing and wholeness who would not beat a path to our door? This is why I risked everything to move to LA and market my books, films and retreats. It’s my raison d’etre, to equip the Church to heal and disciple a hurting world. Our Personal Growth Retreat can show you how also.



Ken Unger is President of and founder of, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at The Ultimate Breakthrough "
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