Pastoral Testimony: Robin Bassam
1) Please introduce yourself and the church you pastor.
My name is Robin Bassam and I was born in London, England. I was saved in 1970 at the age of 25 in an Evangelical Free Church. In 1974 I received a call from the Lord to serve Him in Norway. I came to Norway in 1983 and served the Lord in Northern Norway for many years. Seven years ago we started Trondheim International Church, which is an English speaking non-denominational church. We started with about 12 friends and we have grown to between 35 and 40 Christian believers. Our church has members from England, Norway, Canada, Romania, the Ukraine, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Ghana and the Philippines.
2) Tell us how you came to believe that head covering is a timeless symbol for today.
I was saved in an Evangelical Free Church which was a Reformed Calvinist Church. The Pastor believed in Head Covering and about half the ladies wore a Head Covering (mainly hats). The first four or five churches I pastored had a number of ladies who covered their heads. Since then none of the churches I have pastored practiced Head Coverings. At Elim Bible College (a Pentecostal Bible College in England) I was involved in a debate on Head Covering from 1 Corinthians 11 where I found myself defending Head Covering. It was not a subject that gripped me but I found myself defending not Head Covering itself, but the right for a lady to choose to cover her head if she desires. Afterwards a number of ladies (not men) thanked me for defending their right to cover their heads if they chose to. I gradually came to see that 1 Corinthians 11 is very clear in its teaching. Any new convert reading it would take it as a timeless command of God for ladies to cover their heads in all public worship meetings.
3) How did you let your congregation know about your theological shift on this issue? How did you walk them through it?
About two years ago the Lord began to speak to me about the desperate state of much of Evangelical Christianity today. The Lord was speaking to me about the lack of holiness in the church, the replacement of worship with entertainment and the lack of good evangelical preaching and teaching. I made a deliberate U-turn concerning the direction and theology of Trondheim International Church. As a church we began to Study Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology and John Piper’s Desiring God. In the church we were joined by some key people who support this teaching
In July of this year we decided to study Complementarianism and Egalitarianism. I made a number of notes about both positions from Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (Wayne Grudem) and the Egalitarian book, Discovering Biblical Equality (Pierce and Groothuis). I sent my notes to Sasha (a lady from the Ukraine who was sharing the teaching ministry with me on this subject). She sent me back her comments with a remarkable request. Sasha wrote: “There is something I would love to hear you teach, though you did not have it in your notes. Head Covering for women. I was raised in a traditional pentecostal church in the Ukraine where all the women covered their heads with scarves. Coming to Norway and marrying a Norwegian I had hoped to escape Head Covering, but I would love to hear you teach this in our church”.
I decided to teach womens Head Covering as a part of the whole subject of Complementarianism. Before I started teaching this subject I explained to the Church that this was the first time in my 35 year ministry that I had ever taught on Head Covering for women. I then explained that I was in a small minority of Christians that believe in Head Covering and, if I was to have any chance of succeeding in convincing anyone in the church I was going to have to teach it thoroughly, answering all objections, and giving a study that would destroy every argument against the practice of Head Covering for today. I produced a teaching manual called “Should a Christian Woman Cover Her Head In Church Today?“
I taught it for 4 consecutive Sundays: The first week was an Introduction to the practice of Head Covering and background to the controversy today. Week two I taught 1 Corinthians 11 verses 1 to 16 verse by verse. Week three I answered the main objections (about 15 of them) and questions from ladies considering Head Covering; I also taught about the early church fathers and Christian church practice for 1,950 years. Week four I taught about the humility and submission of Christ as our example; and testimonies from ladies that had recently started to cover their heads.
By the time of the 4th Session, four ladies had begun to cover their heads. Sasha was one of them After the 3rd Sunday, Sasha said: “Pastor Rob, you’ve convinced me. I know it is the Biblical command of God to cover our heads in church.”
4) How did your church react to your preaching through 1 Corinthians 11?
The church has reacted brilliantly. I am the founding Pastor and that may be a help. When I was a young man I used to enjoy preaching more than teaching; but now I love to teach. And my congregation loves teaching. Richel is the church’s worship leader and she was very sceptical. She was the last person in the church I thought would wear a Head Covering. But last week in a group discussion I overheard her say, “When Joy began to cover her head I was very sceptical. I thougth it was very strange. But when I heard Pastor Rob teach on why a woman should cover her head in Church I was shocked. It was so clear and now I am going to cover my head in all the church meetings.” And true to her word, Richel covered her head in church for the first time last Sunday. Only one lady was covering before the teaching; now there are six.
5) Do you have any tips or advice for pastors who’ve recently come to believe in this symbol and are thinking through how to best introduce their congregation to it?
What works in one church may not work in another church. Some pastors may be very successful in introducing head covering in their church by doing things very different from me. But I can only say that I am absolutely amazed that six ladies have begun wearing a Head Covering after hearing my teaching on the subject. But here are my tips and advice to my fellow pastors:
- Know your subject. I have been studying this subject for a number of years. I have read Watchman Nee, K P Yohannan, Zac Poonen, The Head Covering Movement and as many books as possible. I have searched the Internet for anything new. I have studied 1 Corinthians 11 and looked at the Greek inter linear and my Vine’s Dictionary of New Testament Words. I have produced my own personal Teaching Manual and updated it at least five times. I have studied every possible objection and not rested until I could answer each objection fairly. So take some time until you are really comfortable with your knowledge of the subject.
- Know your congregation and and love them sacrificially. A Pastor should know and love his people. If your people love you and know that you love them, they will listen to you. They will respect you. And some of them will follow you.
- Teach with confidence, humility and humour. Teach the subject without apologising for being controversial. Be confident and let them see that you really are an able minister and able to teach the subject well. Have a servant heart for your people. You are there to serve them and you desire the best for every single member. Emphasise the benefits and the joy of Head Covering. If you have a sense of humour, use it. Humour is a great ice breaker.