More than 50 Business Empowered members and guests crowded the 3rd floor ballroom of the Emerald Grande Dec. 16 for their final meeting of 2013.



The Christian faith-based cooperative of area business leaders invited Steve Backlund, an author, speaker and associate pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., to speak at the luncheon.



Business Empowered leader Mel Ponder told the crowd that he has spent time with Backlund before. He said Backlund embraces the ways of God and explains them in practical applications that make God feel close.



"You can't be around him and not feel God's joy," Ponder said.



The mission of the Destin-based Business Empowered is to bring Christian business owners and leaders on the Emerald Coast together to encourage one another in their work and spiritual lives. Backlund said he could see fruits of Business Empowered's labor.



"It's obvious God is doing something pretty big here," Backlund said.



Much of Backlund's speech focused on ways Christians can keep their focus on their goals and forgetting the things that are behind.



"The greater the vision we have for the future, the more power we have for the present," Backlund said.



His message fit well within the narrative Ponder provided The Log the previous week during an interview about his decision to run for mayor in 2014. Naturally, Ponder didn't pass up on the opportunity to do a bit of campaigning at the Business Empowered meeting, though he acknowledged no one else has publicly announced their candidacy for the seat.



"I don't know if there is going to be an election. I don't know if anyone else has announced they are running. If they do, Amen. It'd be an honor to have a campaign. It'd be a better honor to not have one," Ponder said.



To learn more about Business Empowered, visit the website at BEflorida.net. The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 3, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the Emerald Grande 3rd Floor Ballroom. Pastor Jane Hamon of Vision Church at Christian International in Santa Rosa Beach will be the guest speaker. A lunch buffet will be served. Cost is $16 for BE members and $20 for guests. Reservations are required. To RSVP, email Mel Ponder at Mel@BEflorida.net.