Chris Beales, in his 170 page book Practising Jesus, draws on his long experience to address many topical and pressing issues facing the world today. Youth unemployment, inter-faith relations, working in Afghanistan, engaging with Governments and politicians, businesses and community groups all come under scrutiny as Chris brings his faith and values to bear on what is happening in Britain and the world. The challenge, as he sees it, is not just to practise faithfully but to bring about real, positive, lasting change. This requires clear analysis and energetic efforts to make things happen. It requires working in collaboration with all sorts of other people and organisations. It requires stickability in the face of apathy and opposition.
As a social entrepreneur working locally and internationally, Chris is also a parish priest in a small community 50 miles north of London, England. Practising Jesus gives a valuable insight into how he sees his work, nurturing the faith of his congregation while also challenging people to step out of their comfort zones and play their part in changing the world. The proceeds of the book go towards funding a new community development programme in his parish of Woburn Sands - the initiative also involves developing a social enterprise to help sustain the work and provide local jobs.
Creating employment – especially employment for young people - has been an important aspect of Chris' work and he describes a range of initiatives, some of which have succeeded, others failed. His interest in worker co-operatives dates back to the early 1980s and a failed co-operative enterprise centre he set up with others in the northern town of Hartlepool. But much was learned and, over the next 30 years, he has worked with governments, companies, charities and social enterprises at the cutting edge of economic empowerment in the UK, West Africa and Central Asia. He describes his current work developing a new kind of school in East London, a University Technical College, and how he expects this to improve radically the employment prospects for young people.
Since 2005, Chris has worked with Afghan Action, a charity providing education and training for young people in Kabul, Afghanistan. He describes the vision, opportunities, struggles and disappointments of working in one of the world's most corrupt and difficult situations - and the inspiration he derives from the young men and women who are so keen to learn and acquire skills.
In the final chapter, Chris looks in some detail at St Paul as an entrepreneur and identifies ways in which our reading of the Bible, especially the letters of St Paul, has for too long been hijacked into a sanitised spirituality which has little to offer those who seek inspiration for radical, Christ-like change.