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Fixer-Upper: What the Church Can Learn From Chip and Joanna Gaines

by Rick Chromey

Chip and Joanna are television’s hottest couple.

The Gaineses renovate homes and inspire hearts on their top-rated show, Fixer Upper (HGTV). They’ve also launched a popular “Magnolia” brand. Millions of devoted fans read their magazine, books, and blogs, visit their restaurants, shops, and websites, and use their rental homes and design lines.

Recently, the Gaineses bid farewell to their reality show, and that provides a perfect opportunity to identify truths the church can learn.


Chip and Joanna resonate as common folk. They’re hardworking Texans who appreciate faith, family, friends, and fixer-uppers. And just like the shiplap that frames many Waco homes they restore—a hardy wood that’s often covered by wallpaper and brick—Chip and Joanna aren’t afraid to bare their weaknesses. Even when reality show rumors fly, they stay above the fray. Celebrity hasn’t changed the Gaineses and that’s attractive.

Authenticity is something most churches (and their leaders) struggle to achieve. It’s risky to show our faults and flaws. It’s also dangerous to be transparent. We do love our masks. But spirituality and life aren’t always easy, convenient, nice, and clean. We inherit a faith conceived in blood, sweat, and tears so that means keeping it real. Authenticity is what made the early church so attractive…and risky. I mean you could die at church for fibbing (Acts 5:1-11).

QUESTION: How can your church draw out more authentic community in its messages, activities, and events?


Joanna Gaines embraces a minimalist design where everything possesses purpose. She converts dilapidated wood into beautiful tables and rusty metal into useful wall décor. Her favorite trick is to remove the walls, opening overly framed houses, and incorporate black, white, and gray into her final designs.

The modern—particularly American—church is the result of 1700 years of Christendom. We didn’t get here by accident and many of our traditions, rituals, and ideas about “church” are colored and overly-framed.

Acts 2:42 gives the minimalist “black and white” reasons for why the early church gathered: to learn the apostles’ doctrine (discipleship), fellowship (community), prayer, and “breaking of bread,” for example, the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist (worship).

QUESTION: How well do your church meetings match these four characteristics?


Anyone who watches Fixer Upper knows that Chip and Joanna love to love on each other. They constantly affirm the other’s work, attitude, views, character, and ideas. They continually confirm the other’s uniqueness, beauty, and gifts. Yes, it sometimes borders on sappiness, but it works and it’s a model for all relationships.

Love is the guiding rule of Christianity and the oxygen of the local church. Our ability to affirm, encourage, uplift, and bless is what grows commitment to the faith community. The defining tattoo of any congregation is its contagious ability to love unconditionally, outrageously, and irresponsibly. The early church was noted for its charity (Acts 2:44-45, 47).

QUESTION: How well does your congregation love—inside and outside the church?


Chip and Joanna’s children form the foundation of every Fixer Upper episode. They are inspirational, ideal parents. They’re attentive, sacrificial, perceptive, and gentle. The kids aren’t in the way. They are valued, wanted, and included.

It’s why children’s ministry should be a church’s highest priority. Families matter. And children need to be included, not segregated from the greater faith community, as the early church modeled (Acts 21:5). We must build families like the Gaineses renovate houses.

QUESTION: How much are children valued and included in adult congregational gatherings?

Ultimately, Chip and Joanna create a high relational bar for churches. But that’s okay. We’re all fixer-uppers. Every congregation is in renovation.

It’s what keeps us as real as shiplap.

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Fixer-Upper: What the Church Can Lear...

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