Blaming the couch

Luke 18:31-34
There wasn’t more than a small table and a couch in the youth room.

When I first got to the church, someone told me not to worry. The couch would be gone soon. A group of ministry experts had already come to evaluate the church’s ministry. One of their observations was the couch. It had to go. Their thought was you cannot hold a teenager’s attention if they’re comfortable.

I’ve taught youth and adults while sitting at tables, firepits and desks. What would that group think of the bean bags I’ve bought over the years. Or the bench seat from an old truck I once placed in our youth room? My guess is they wouldn’t have liked the stairway chest from a bunk bed I once used for seats.

My experience has taught me people learn when they’re ready. Their engagement depends on a lot. You can’t narrow it down to furniture.

Maybe we’ll convince ourselves the teacher isn’t employing our learning style. Even though science tells us that’s a myth. We ignore how multitasking doesn’t help us like we assume it does. We’re so used to juggling several things at once we have a hard time focusing on the one thing in front of us. And let’s not forget, even the most devoted of saints can have a hard day. Times when they can’t focus like they normally would. Even in prayer and Bible study.

Another harsh reality is some of us teachers aren’t engaging in the first place. So, we blame the couch. We suspect imperfect sitting arrangements are inimical to learning. Well, maybe they can be. Most likely, there’s much more to consider.

How much more perfect of a learning environment could the disciples of Jesus have had? They walked with him and heard his voice. They could see his facial expressions and appreciate his tone. I’ve always wondered what kind of mannerisms our Lord had. Did he speak with his hands?

Scripture shows us learning from the savior himself didn’t always help the disciples. There were many moments of confusion and bewilderment. Even anger.

In Luke’s telling of the gospel, Jesus foretells his impending death three times. Two of those times Luke tells us the disciples did not understand. He even says what Jesus taught was “hidden” or veiled to them.


Did God not want them to grasp this just yet? Would it make more sense later? If so, does God still wait to inspire wisdom in us today?

Or was there something about the disciples that kept them from understanding? Many commentators blame their royal expectations of Jesus. John Calvin called it “stupidity.” Were they blinded by their inclinations of power and victory?

Reflecting on those questions helps our learning. There is great encouragement for learners and teachers. Learners, keep learning different things. Keep praying about what you learn. Teachers, keep learning and praying, too. And stop blaming the couch.

Stay blessed…john

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John Fletcher

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