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Fort Mill couple wants to start Christian chamber of commerce

There was a prayer. There was a message. The only thing missing was a good, old-fashioned, Bible-thumping hymn, maybe, "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus, ye soldiers of the cross."

The hymn would have nicely knitted with Barry Pruitt's message. He wants people to stand up for Jesus. The message came not from the pulpit, nor from a church social hall, but from a back room of the Bac-In-Tyme coffee house in Fort Mill.

The audience of 15 included a few ministers and, presumably, other believers. But they are also business people, drawn by Pruitt's message that they don't have to put their faith on hold while working 9 to 5.

Pruitt is hoping to find enough like-minded Christians to start a York County Christian Chamber of Commerce. Charlotte already has a Christian chamber. He said he is being led to form one here.

His message is about running your business in a Christian manner, using it as a ministry and conducting oneself in a manner that demonstrates, through conduct, character and commitment, their faith.

Pruitt is a business consultant and former small-business owner. His wife, Marsha, is an event planner. They have lived in Fort Mill for about 12 years. They've helped recruit people for church missions.

They come from different faith backgrounds. Marsha says she grew up in a God-based, church-attending family. Barry said his parents dropped him off at church and that, while he knew of God, "I didn't know about accepting Jesus."

Events have caused their faith to grow. Now, "we are looking for a place to put our talents," Barry said.

As proposed, the Christian Chamber of Commerce would have many of the benefits secular chambers offer: marketing assistance, mentoring, networking and educating business owners through speakers and seminars.

What would be different is the accountability and encouragement that comes from a community of believers, he said.

"As a business owner, if you have a problem, you have to make it happen," Barry said. But with a Christian-centered business, your concerns are directed to God. "If God wants it to happen, he will pull it together," Barry said.

A focus would be helping business owners understand how to handle problems in a way "that shows graciousness, shows a love of God and accountability," he said.

Barry also said the ability to share successes and concerns with other believers can help people recharge.

And, a Christian chamber would also offer the "ultimate competitive advantage. ... proven marketplace strategies are found in the Bible," Barry said.

So far, they have held several organizing meetings, and "the response has been humbling," Marsha said. As interest grows they are discussing questions such as what is the best time to meet; where is the best place to meet, Fort Mill or Rock Hill, and even if it would be best to have separate groups for Fort Mill and Rock Hill that could combine when needed.

A big struggle is "keeping the cost as low as possible," Barry said.

Plans are for a Jan 18 kickoff.