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“Frank talk, spirited debate, laughter, and love.”* That could be the description of a small group at St. John’s or even a conversation on the patio after Sunday worship, but it’s how Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation describes a “Braintrust meeting.” It’s what they call a group of artists and filmmakers who come alongside a director as a new film is being “birthed” at the studio. The Braintrust has no authority to make the director change course if something isn’t working – the Braintrust advises in a spirit of “frank talk, spirited debate, laughter, and love.” They are not there to destroy the film. They are trusted peers who believe in the artist and in the film, and want to see both succeed.

As I read about the Braintrust in Catmull’s book, Creativity Inc., I was amazed that such teamwork and warm-hearted feedback existed in the hyper-competitive world of Hollywood filmmaking. Catmull adds later, “you don’t have to work at Pixar to create a Braintrust. Every creative person, no matter their field, can draft into service those around them who exhibit the right mixture of intelligence, insight, and grace.” All of us need a group like that -- people we can be honest with, and who we trust to speak the truth. All of us need friends who will challenge us and make us laugh at the same time; people who will not kick us when we’re down, but who will lift us up with grace and encouragement. All of us need those who believe in the great work of art that Christ is completing in us (Phil. 1:6).

Do you have a small group of trusted friends like those that accompanied Jesus throughout his ministry? Even in Gethsemane, before he was arrested, Jesus needed “garden friends” to be with him – and so do you and I. If you don’t belong to a small group now, please seriously consider joining one this quarter. Our new study series, “Getting Un-Stuck” is just beginning. You and I were not created to go it alone; and I am praying that God will provide the perfect mixture of frank talk, spirited debate, laughter, and grace that you need to grow in Christ this season. Here's a link: Small Groups.

* Ed Catmull, Creativity Inc. “Honesty & Candor” (New York: Random House, 2014), pp. 85-105


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