Here I Raise Mine Ebenezer – Carla Shipp


One of my favorite hymns is “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” Though all the words are powerful and full of meaning for believers, there are two lines that have especially stirred my heart as of late.


Here I raise mine Ebenezer
Hither by Thy help I’m come


These words refer to 1 Samuel 7:12 where Samuel erects a stone of remembrance to recognize the help of the Lord in delivering the nation from the hands of the Philistines. He desires for them to have a constant reminder of God’s protection and victory. “A commemoration of divine assistance.”


God has been so faithful in our lives and in the life of First New Testament Church and I feel led to raise an Ebenezer to recognize His help in every moment and His grace poured out to supply our every need. It is essential to our faith to remember the past, how God has cared for us, led us, moved in our lives and brought us through. Just as we are to learn from our history as a people and nation, we are to learn from our history with our God. Remembering His faithfulness and past deliverances gives us strength to trust Him today, and we continue to pray  “for grace to trust Him more.”


I remember God’s goodness to call Lee to ministry as a young man in college. When I first met Lee I was so surprised by his love for the Word of God, his knowledge of prophecy, and his love for Jesus as his Savior. God had revealed Himself to Lee in ways I had never experienced and during our college days, God called him to ministry. It was a very clear, undeniable call and in God’s goodness confirmed the next day in an unusual circumstance. While preparing to attend chapel service at the Baptist Student Center, his old youth pastor from the Presbyterian Church walked into the courtyard of the center to share in the day’s service. Surprised to see him there (at the time only Baptist ministers were asked to speak for chapel)  we were even more surprised by what he said. He took us aside and told Lee, “It happened didn’t it…God called you!” That confirmation from the Lord was so timely and loving. It gave Lee the assurance and confidence to further seek the Lord’s will.


As our relationship became more serious, the Lord spoke to Lee and told him he could not marry me if I wasn’t baptized in the Holy Spirit, we would be unequally yoked. God knew that what faced us would require unity in His Spirit. At the first opportunity, Lee shared the Word of God with me and by His grace through faith I received the baptism. God was so good! So kind and loving! He doesn’t want us to miss what He has for us. He just wants us to surrender and trust in Him. Here we were reminded by God how important His Holy Spirit is in the life of the believer.


Lee began to minister in the church we were attending and about a year later the Lord revealed more of His purpose for us. God showed Lee 10 things that would take place and then He told him he was to start a church. Up to this point, Lee planned to attend seminary as most young men do who feel called to the ministry. But the Lord was saying, “Now.”  True to His word the events took place. God gave us the faith to step out and with the support of family and a few friends we held our first meetings as a church. I remember meeting in Kim Shaw’s home to decide what we would name our church. Many traditional and familiar names were thrown out but none felt right. We expressed our desire to be like the church in the New Testament and with that First New Testament Church began, September 1986. This was the beginning of the last year of college for Lee and our first year of marriage.  He was a young man of 22 yrs. I’m thankful for the support we received and the faithfulness of God to give us the strength and confidence to step out in His will. He has never failed to speak and lead us. This has taught me to not discount the call on a man’s or woman’s life despite their young age.


The next ten years would bring many transitions. We met first in Lee’s uncle’s home, then in many different buildings. God would lead us to a place to rent at a reduced rate, the building owner would be blessed to find a buyer for his property, and we would move on. At least eight locations in ten years, but God was building a body. During this time many battles were fought, victories won and lessons learned. Early on the Lord showed Lee, at a time when he was feeling burned out from his attempt to be the “best pastor he could be,” that his call was to minister at His table, to Him. He gave Lee Ezekiel 34 – 35 and from then this has been his desire, to minister to the Lord and let the Lord minister to the body.  God taught us the importance of the Body of Christ and His desire for its proper functioning for His glory. During these years we also saw the loss of our first child, Susanne, and the birth of three children, Jordan, Ethan & Hadyn, who minister by our side today. He also added to the body many individuals and families who are still ministering with us. We are so grateful.


In 1997 we had an all-night prayer meeting for direction concerning buying property and building. The next day the Lord led us to our property at 3235 Aubin Ln. We purchased 4 acres at an incredible price and began plans for our first building. The Lord provided a local bank to support us when no other bank would. There were many outstanding moments in our first building, but two stand out to me. These would continue to express our heart and mission as a church. One of these occurred when there was a heated discussion over the placement of the sound booth in our newly built facility. We knew how the enemy could work and cause division through the most carnal means and he was attempting to do just that. Lee left the meeting abruptly and went to the altar. He reminded the Lord, “this is Your church, not mine!” God spoke to him that He had already taken care of it. Meanwhile I was in the meeting and saw the conviction of the Holy Spirit and repentance come on the group miraculously. By the time Lee returned, the Lord had healed the division and we walked on in unity.


It was also in this building that we began our weekly prayer meetings. Many churches no longer had prayer meetings, finding them boring or not well attended. Lee told the Lord, “If I have just a prayer meeting, no one will come.” The Lord answered, “If you don’t have a prayer meeting, I won’t come.”  Needless to say, we began our weekly prayer meetings and the Lord has grown them to be our best services of the week! He taught us the importance of His presence and His power. The altar became so valuable to us and times with the Lord there necessary to heal the wounds that were laid bare by the Word of God spoken to us.


Another defining moment for FNT was our involvement in missions. Lee was always very patient to seek the Lord and wait for his leading on whom to support in mission work. Growing up in a denomination, this was all provided for my church through the associations and conventions. We at FNT however, were non-denominational. I began to think of who we might support, but Lee was patient. The Lord opened a door for us to attend Victory Temple Mission Convention in Beaumont, Texas where we were to become acquainted with Bro. B.H. Clendennon. Shortly after we began attending these yearly meetings, the Lord used Bro. Clendennon to begin the School of Christ International, what would soon become a world-wide missions organization. We established relationships with ministers all over the United States and the world. Lee was invited to travel and preach in many places and our church was given opportunities to go on numerous mission trips. There is not enough space in this article to speak of all the people and places, lives and ministries, that we’ve been a part of. However, we’ve learned one thing – God knows how to open doors when you desire to follow Him.


In 2006 we moved into our present church building.  FNT continued to grow as a healthy church going on “stedfastly in the apostles doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers.” A Call to the Heart, the preaching and teaching ministry that God had birthed in 1986 through Lee was very involved in radio programs, television broadcast and audio distribution. The Word of God from the pulpit of FNT was a blessing to many. In 2010, God would show Lee again something that would grow our church on to more of what the Lord desired for us. He showed Lee several things that would take place, much like 1986. These things were to take Lee into a valley of trial that he knew he could not bear. In this God would teach him of His grace, as Paul learned in 2 Corinthians 12. As these events would unfold, and Lee would press in closer to the Lord and more dependent on Him, God would pour out such a powerful message to our church and believers around the world. We began to know the grace of God that we had always believed and stood upon, but now experience abundantly. As Lee says, with any move of God there’s always a move of Satan, but God brought victory and glory. Through these years we as a church have seen the goodness of God which has humbled us and caused us to love him more. We’ve learned that the grace of God will teach us and that as we walk in faith, we will be conformed to His image. He has given us a love for one another even beyond what we had experienced, a desire for His presence among us and to lift up our voices in praise.


In these latest years the Lord has taught us the power of  praise to God, the fruit of our lips offered to Him. The Lord brought Lee to passages in Psalms of thanksgiving to God. As he studied the Lord showed him the meaning of the “choir of praise” that went before the people. This has strengthened and grown our times of worship together as we have opportunity to gather at the altar together, lifting our voices in praise to God for who He is and how we love Him. It has been so beautiful to stand with my brothers and sisters and hear our voices raised in praise to God.


The Lord has given us a beautiful body of believers at FNT and we are so humbled and grateful to serve them and know them. I believe around me are the most humble, gracious, faithful, courageous, loving, and devoted servants of the Lord. He has been so good to make us what we are and to continue to work in us by His Spirit. As we wait on Him, we look forward to His soon return!!


Love for God, The Word, The Holy Spirit, Prayer, The Body, The Altar, The Gospel, The Lost,  Grace, Faith, Praise, His Presence, His Return ………The Heart of FNT….The Ebenezer Stone of all that God has done thus far!


I love you church!

Carla Shipp

  • Login