Our society is one of addiction, says Wayside Chapel CEO pastor Jon Owen, and our increasing inability to embrace the ‘seasons’ in life – the ups and downs and the joy and sadness – can rob us of the ability to experience it on a meaningful level.

Speaking on the Conexus Financial Redefining Leadership webinar, presented in partnership with MLC Wealth, about the lens he applies to leadership in his community, the pastor explained how a more organic perspective on goals can change a person’s outlook entirely.

“We live and we operate on this myth that there can be endless growth, when in fact our greatest teacher should be mother nature itself because there are seasons for everything, there are cycles, there is life, death and rebirth,” Owen said.

Society is compulsive, Owen continued, and constantly striving for the impossible. This drive to succeed, he says, is akin to a “death roll”.

“We need to understand that we’re not always going to feel stimulated… the drive for compulsive growth and constant development is the impulse of an addict.”

The pastor, who took over from long-time Wayside CEO Reverand Graham Long in July 2018, is a special breed. Owen dropped out at the tail end of a computer science and engineering degree to pursue community work and, together with his wife Lisa and two children, spent over a decade providing food and shelter to the needy from their own home in Mount Druitt. For their honeymoon, Owen says they considered “getting a tan in Fiji” before settling on a longer stay in Calcutta helping the poor.


And while he now finds himself running a 100-person army of staff, 700 volunteers and managing a budget of around $10 million, Owen says he still questions his ability to lead. Like many people charged with the fate of others, imposter syndrome is something he deals with regularly.

“I sat here this morning thinking ‘everyone thinks I’m a fraud,” he said. “You know, if you look at a tapestry from the front its beautiful but if you look at it from the back its just a mess of fabric everywhere. When I look at my life all I see is the back. All I see are broken bits.

“But it’s only through getting in touch with my own sense of brokenness that I’ve been able to discover my gifts and strengths.”

As with all things, Owen reckons the key to overcoming doubt is to reach out and connect, instead of folding in on ones self.

“There’s an old Mother Theresa saying – loneliness is the leprosy of the developed world,” he said.

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