Looking at HGTV's Fixer Upper Joanna Gaines' testimony: Christianity, or Prosperity Gospel?

Part 2 here: The hypocrisy of Chip and Joanna Gaines

Several years ago a Waco business developer/realty/design/construction company generally named Magnolia run by Chip and Joanna Gaines were contacted to star in a HGTV fixer upper show. The first episode aired in April 2014 and has become an instant hit for the network. Ratings in the first season were through the roof. This phenomenon was largely attributed to the couple's likability and charisma, good looks, and business savvy.

It is also attributed to the couples' Christian faith. This World Magazine article lays it out, even stating that the reception to the couple in the form of ratings has "launched a Christian revolution at HGTV":
The difference, at least in all the conversations I’ve had, is that while doing stunning work, the Gaineses consistently reflect an unassuming, recognizable Christianity. ... But even these obvious clues don’t quite capture the subtle loving-kindness the Gaineses exemplify in their interactions with each other and their children. When the first episode of Fixer Upper debuted in April 2014, after watching for only a few minutes, with no clear evidence, I had a strong presentiment I was seeing fellow members of the body. A little web searching confirmed it.
The couple seemed genuinely in love. The pair seemed like dependable, loving parents. In its first season the show was just nice.

So why am I writing about them?

One reason is because the show has taken on massive proportions, huge ratings, and as World Mag says, the husband and wife team are the catalyst for more 'Christian' programming at HGTV. Since the Gaines's have a national platform in which to showcase their Christianity, we look at their testimony.

Also, because of hypocrisy. No matter the celebrity, or perhaps because of celebrity status, we want to make sure of who we are touting and promoting. What brand of Christianity do they adhere to? Do they live what they say they live? The Bereans said they would listen to Paul but then go back and examine what Paul taught (Acts 17:11). Paul welcomed transparency to examine his doctrine, and he was the biggest Christian celebrity of his time. Later when Paul's integrity was attacked, he defended his lifestyle, because integrity in life mattered as much as the doctrine he taught. (2 Corinthians 5:11–15).

Therefore, my examination of the Gaines phenomenon will be two parts. This part 1 will examine Mrs Gaines' testimony, the doctrine portion. The next part will look at their lifestyle.

I mean them no harm and I'm truly happy the couple who has worked very hard for a long time on their business goals and ambitions, are seeing them come to fruition today. I am glad that they have opportunity in interviews to share about their faith and their church. Their long-term and more recent financial bounty has afforded them opportunities to give and support others in a blessed way, as Chip hinted in one interview. I am grateful that they love each other and are raising their children with good values, from at least what we can see through the lens of what is shown to us on camera. They are attributed with almost single-handedly revitalizing the Waco downtown with business, art, and tourism, something that every small town or city hopes for. Because of the Gaines' an entire cable channel is looking for more Christians to produce a show around. These are all good things.

That's what makes raising these issues even harder.

Recently Mrs Gaines' alma mater, Baylor University in Waco, produced a video which has since gone viral with over 4.5 million views on Youtube alone, in which Mrs Gaines is given over four minutes to testify to the glory of Jesus Christ and her gracious salvation. And here is where it gets troubling. Mrs Gaines used the time to speak not of sin, grace, redemption, and Jesus, though she mentioned Him once at the end. But instead the video is a testimonial to Mrs Gaines' ambitions, Mrs Gaines' dreams, Mrs Gaines' plans, and how God was going to fulfill them by giving her what she wants.


And she knows this because He personally told her so.

We learn in the video that Mrs Gaines always knew God was going to fulfill her business dreams because He directly told her, specifically and clearly. She mentions 4 times in the 4 minute video that God spoke to her. Her story, which remains consistent in interviews as well as the testimony video, is that when her two children were young God spoke to her and said she had to close her store which had been open for two years. In the first two quotes below, in order to salve her disappointment at having her dreams of running a business shattered just so she could perform her biblical function as a mother, God comforted her thus-
"I heard Him specifically say, 'Joanna, I have a calling for you. You’re going to have a platform one day.'"

I remember hearing God say, 'Joanna, there’s going to come a time when I’m going to say for you to go, and I’m going to need for you to step out and go.'"

I really felt like God was saying, 'Hey, I want you home, I want you raising these babies at home at this age.'"

I heard God say very clearly, 'If you trust me with your dreams, I’m going to take Magnolia further than you even dreamed. Just trust me.' And I remember hearing that and feeling completely peaceful about it, and I walked away."
First, God does not personally and audibly speak to us today in the way Mrs Gaines relates. Whatever Mrs Gaines thought she heard is not God. Here is a post by Michael Horton to answer the question "Does God Talk to Us?"

Second, God is not a dream-fulfilling machine. God is not speaking to Joanna Gaines. There is no need to hear the voice of God personally direct a mother to stay home and raise her children when the Bible indicates that her entire orientation should already mainly be to stay home and raise the children anyway. (Titus 2:3-5, 1 Timothy 5:14). God places a priority on the woman's direct involvement at home.

In addition, though economic necessity sometimes force a couple to make a tough decision for the mom to work outside the home, and the Bible does leave some room for couples to make their decisions, in the Gaines' case working such long hours outside the home was not necessary. Chip has always been good at making money. He made $30,000 the first year he was out of college, after having started and sold two businesses already while in college. Joanna's store was also doing well at the time. But more on their lifestyle in the next part.

But please note that Joanna's dream in the video that God was going to fulfill was the business, not the children. I'm not saying she isn't a good mother, I don't know that she is or isn't. I do know that on the show there is frequent mention of passing the children for child care to an extended family member or a babysitter. I do know that they incessantly showcase the children on the show. I am saying that when you've been given 4 minutes to testify to the important things about your salvation, the items one would expect to hear are absent. She chose to focus entirely on God fulfilling her business dream.

After the store closure in 2005, Chip and Joanna Gaines had two more children. They now have four kids, Drake (age 11), Ella (9), Duke (7) and Emmie (6) all as of this coming May. Mrs Gaines continues from the testimony video saying that after a few years at home with the children, working her design business from home too, she says 'God said' in 2014 it was OK to re-open her store.
And I felt like God said, 'Jo, it’s time.' And I was like, 'Time for what?' he said, 'It’s time to reopen your store.' I said, I don't think I can do that.' And just cool and calm, 'No, it’s time.'
I find it curious that God told her to stay home with her first two babies when they were young but that it was OK to become a business woman while the second two were young.

From various interviews within the last year or so, Joanna is quoted as saying,
I really felt like God said, 'You're gonna have a platform one day with women.' (source)
I kind of felt like God just kept saying, 'This is gonna be something that I'm going to take to another level,' (source)
But I felt like God said, 'Hey, this is the season to be home, and you need to trust me.' (source)
But I felt like God said, ‘If you trust me with your dreams, I’m gonna make Magnolia bigger and better than you could have ever dreamed.’ (source)
So God is great because He gave her a big store. That's her testimony. Not so much about raising her babies, nor about the blessing of marriage and a husband. Her dream, her store, her things.

The 'key' as Joanna said in the video's conclusion, is to let God speak to you and "let his father heart say this is what I have for you." Again, an emphasis on self and the things God will give her, not the blessing of knowing Jesus, of being redeemed from sin's curse, for escaping wrath, of being made holy in sanctification, for the promise of heaven, for the pleasure of enjoying God forever. Nothing of the sort. Just gratitude that He will "take the store further than she ever imagined."

On a lengthy thread discussing the show Fixer Upper and the Gaines', two comments caught my attention. Here they are, speaking about the close, intimate, audible relationship Mrs Gaines says she has with God.
But apparently Mrs. Gaines has been giving interviews, especially this past fall, attributing their success to Christian faith. She says specifically that God spoke to her directly and promised earthly riches if she was faithful. Which is interesting because that makes her just one more proponent of the self-serving "prosperity gospel" movement.
(I'm episcopalian and many of us regard God speaking directly to an individual as both unlikely and a sign of possible mental health issues or blind ambition.)
Another commenter:
I googled Joanna's testimony on youtube today. I've never had God talk so fluently and directly to me like He does with her. I wish He'd provide me with such specific instructions and reassurances. That's really something.
They nailed it.

When Jesus spoke to Saul He knocked him flat on the road to Damascus, rebuked him for persecuting Jesus, struck Saul blind and told him he must suffer. When God spoke to John on Patmos it was to have John pen letters of rebuke, condemnation, and warning to several churches in Asia. When God spoke to Jeremiah it was to tell him do not marry or have children because the times are going to get rough, then spent 40 years prophesying so through the weeping prophet. Not that He isn't tender, he is. (Genesis 16:7-13).  But not once did God say to anyone He talked with in the Bible "I am going to fulfill your dreams." Even to Moses who God said was a friend, in the end God banned Moses from entering the Promised Land because Moses had disobeyed God.

After the Apostolic era, nothing is ever said that indicates God interposes Himself audibly to specifically instruct or reassure people in life. This is because the completed Bible does that. (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Revelation 22:18, Hebrews 1:2).

God wants His people to be people of obedience, honor, integrity, repentance, bearing fruit of the Spirit, making disciples, witnessing to the Gospel, and persevering. Nothing is said about someone's dreams, platforms, or levels. Self-serving prosperity gospel on display, for sure.

The other problem with Ms Gaines' testimony is that it normalizes audible conversations when they are not normal at all, nor are they even from God.

Beth Moore, Kim Walker-Smith of Jesus Culture, Christine Caine, Sarah Young of Jesus Calling, and many other women "with a platform" claim to have nearly daily conversations with God, visions, strong impressions of the heart, and other messages that speak of fulfilling their dreams and hopes or otherwise give specific instruction. These are not from God. The kind of Christianity Mrs Gaines puts forth in her testimony video and in interviews is the kind that diminishes God in holiness and stature and exalts the recipient of these messages to an undeserved status. As in, "Wow, she must be special because God talks directly to her just like He did with Moses and Abraham!"

Millions of women who see Mrs Gaines' seemingly vibrant and healthy relationship with God as expressed frequently and audibly presents itself as the norm - when it is not. And this is a problem when the network goes searching for another person or couple that displays this "recognizable Christianity." It might be recognizable to the world, but it is not recognizable to God.

Part 2 here: The hypocrisy of Chip and Joanna Gaines


  1. Elizabeth,
    You have raised some valid points, and offered some great questions for Christians to consider. I hope that people who come across this essay will take the time to read it, and not immediately reject what you have to say, because they like the show and the Gaines' so well.

    Example:"let his father heart say this is what I have for you." If you don't take much time to mull it over, this initially has a nice sound to it. But as you aptly pointed out, it is man-focused, and not biblical at all. A lack of, and unwillingness to think critically, coupled with unfamiliarity with the bible, is a recipe for disaster. We see this everywhere.


    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Thank you so much for reading, and for your support.

  2. Wow, see this show advertised on netflix. Looks nice wholesome and inviting. Appearance wise would never have thought Christain though. Around alot of career, independent women;I work in NYC. Watched the link to the video and based on hair,boots makeup, earings and tight jeans and the advertisement from netflix, I would never assume a coversation about Christianity would be apparent.
    How anyone can claim to communicate with God on the topic of success in this world, or should I say of this world is beyond me. Could have been an intro to an Oprah special.

  3. I hardly watch t.v. but when I do it is to watch this show. The reason is I absolutely love her style. I don't think there is a single home she's styled that I didn't love. However, I never thought, nor would I even mistake this family as Christians. Nice people, yes. Christians whose main goal is to glorify God and save souls, no.

  4. I have been so confused as to how so many are mesmerized by this video when it is all about herself and is centered around her charismatic/prosperity gospel beliefs. It seems people beome giddy when it comes to any celebrity who will just mention God - when we need to really look at what they are saying - and NOT saying. Who is getting the glory? It would have been nice to see her use those minutes to mention repentance, God's transforming work in her life, walking in obedience etc. Thank you Elizabeth for discussing these issues.

  5. It is not God's will to fulfill all our dreams. Certainly, He is gracious to give us our heart's desire at times, if it be His will. However, He will bring into our lives whatever trials, hardships, sorrows, or suffering it takes for us to let go of this world so that we long for our eternal home. This He will accomplish in our lives. If we were continually living in our dream world, what incentive would there be to desire to leave? We'd be clinging to this life.

    You can listen to a person's speech and detect where their heart lies, where their treasure is.

    1. Psalms 37:4 Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart's desires. The author seems to have forgotten this passage.

    2. And what would your hearts desires be as a believer desires of the world? Or would God be refering to us desiring, His will, His glory; that would be a true believers desires.

  6. Thank you Elizabeth for this review. As you pointed out, we are to be like the Bereans - always. It is sad to see such a love for this 'world' and all its trappings, especially in Christians. May the Holy Spirit convict all of us of Jesus' words 'My Kingdom is not of this world.'(John 18:36). We are children of the King. We are just passing through this world and its man/woman-centered kingdoms. As Jesus tells us: "Be Ready", "Be on guard", "Keep Watch". The 'world' will do all it can to distract Christians from our true calling. This show is doing just that.

  7. So as I have read your blog, my take away is the Lord isn't concerned with our desires nor does He speak any longer outside of the Holy Word which has already been given. My Spirit disagrees with this. First Psalms tells us to delight ourselves in the
    Lord and He will give us the desires of our heart. Now by delighting ourselves in Him truly our desires become His, but who are any of us to say this is not His will or plan for the Gaines? Secondly The Holy Spirit was sent by the Father to do the will of the Father according to the Gospel of John, by teaching, reminding and testifying Truth. John 14-16. It is incorrect to say that Mrs. Gaines couldn't receive or recognize the instructions or voice of the Lord as a believer because our Savior plainly told us it's best for Him to leave so the Spirit can come and work in just the way Mrs. Gaines is describing. To speak into your daily life, to reveal our sin and to reveal God's ultimate plan for each of us personally. I'm so sorry that believers live under so much bondage thinking that The Father has left them alone without daily guidance apart from Holy Scripture.

    1. Hi Anonymous, thanks for commenting but I respectfully disagree. here is why,

      You said,

      "It is incorrect to say that Mrs. Gaines couldn't receive or recognize the instructions or voice of the Lord as a believer because our Savior plainly told us it's best for Him to leave so the Spirit can come and work in just the way Mrs. Gaines is describing."

      It is correct. First, The Spirit leads, He doesn't speak. He grows us in sanctification in a silent, mysterious way, conforming us to Christ. He does not personally speak to us. Secondly, Mrs Gaines said explicitly that she heard GOD speaking to her. I gave the scriptures above showing he does not speak directly to us today in audible form as He did to Moses, Abraham and the Prophets etc.

      When a person's desires are at odds with what the Bible says we should desire, it's man that is wrong, or in this case, woman. Mrs Gaines seeks fortune and fame at the expense of her family and is using a voice from God to rationalize it. She should desire what God desires, which is for a wife and mother to make her home the primary orientation of her life. It is what comes out of a man is what defiles him (Mt 15:11)

      You said, "I'm so sorry that believers live under so much bondage thinking that The Father has left them alone without daily guidance apart from Holy Scripture."

      "APART" from scripture?! Like, isn't scripture enough? I am sorry for people who live under so much bondage that they set aside the scripture as the sole arbiter of our lives and seek experiences and daily instruction from mysterious voices from the ether. It is written that scripture is enough.

      All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 2 Timothy 3:16

    2. So i thinking about Psalm 37-4 "Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your hearts desire." and of course there are things i need and even want in this world but my real desire at its core is to be saved and to see others saved, so i read on and Psalm 37-5 goes on to say, "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this:6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun." and in fact the whole chapter points to be saved as even the last verses 39 ,40 say "The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is there stronghold in time of trouble. the Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him."

  8. Another Beth Moore in the making. Right now they are approaching the mountain top, and then eventually, will be the crash. Now, I will add that we have watched the show (Netflix and Amazon Prime) and really like it from the "Home Improvement/Decorating" aspect. BUT, now that they are splattering it all over social media, etc. the Christian aspect, it is a turn off, to me, and I will finish out Season 3, but will not buy any further. I already see young, Christian, woman in their 20's on FB ...married with small children, reposting Joanna's meme's...just today. Frustrating. Praise God, my two grown daughters (one married, one single) see it clearly with these woman. I thought you expressed this in an unbiased, factual, and truthful manner. GREAT POST! Rhonda in Western NY

  9. After reading your blog - my heart is sick. I think most everyone answering this blog would think I'm just as crazy as Joanna is. I'm rethinking my life occurrences and the 'saves' I've experienced. A heavy bookcase toppled seconds after God's voice(?) in my head told me to grab our little son. He surely would have been hurt. God's voice in my head told me to go back home one morning to find a kitchen appliance had been left on and had scorched the counter-top. The voice calling me to stop seconds before an out of control semi would have killed my entire family. My life is littered with similar stories. I always heard that voice. Now, I'm hearing from these others that what I've experienced isn't trust worthy. If I can't know that the voice I'm hearing that always saves me isn't God - then all of this is a lie. What am I hearing? If it's not God's voice - what is it??????

  10. To “Anonymous February 18, 2016 at 2:39 PM (Rethinking my life occurrences and the ‘saves’),

    I will share three very short similar occurrences and then I will make my critical Biblical point!

    First, I recently made a huge purchase on credit. As I was working with the salesman through much of the day I would share little seeds of Biblical Truth with him. Then toward the end of the day when the sale was unwinding, and when we were alone, he really opened up - and was very interested in hearing Biblical truth. Come to find out, everything that he was going through had been what I spoke on, thus, even many very specific relevant issues and the way of escape, all from a doctrinally sound perspective! This was no doubt an eye witness account of how the Lord God was dealing with this fellow - AND using me as a vessel in the process!

    Secondly, I was up under a house in a craw space here in the state of Georgia a few years ago. I was about to reach for a water facet up in a dark corner and had a sense to STOP, LOOK, SENSE. So I did, and good thing I did because there was a snake hanging down off of the foundation stone and blocks trying to get a drink of water right there AT the water facet!

    Lastly, being self employed and not usually knowing where the next job will come from (humanly speaking), and often times having bills that are about to be due, puts me in the position of trusting on the Lord God (sink or swim). Life can be very hard, and my work (means to being sustained to do the work and will of God) is no exception! That said, in MANY different ways I have been sustained - including MANY times of a name popping into my head, including a guy that I had JUST thought about as a possible lead. He ended up calling me about 15 minuets later. I went to look at his project and got the job! I can think OF COUNTLESS similar circumstances throughout my many years of being a TRUE Christian where I had wrestle hard in making decisions, knowing where to move, or brainstorming to meet a need, or in my younger years how was I to spend my life, etc., and really seeking God for divine intervention.

    No trumpet blasts, no beating drums, no vision, no dreams, and no blueprint, just an ongoing trust In Jesus Christ, BECAUSE- I AM REDEEMED, and the Lord God takes care of His own (His time and way).

    My point is the Lord God DOES lead, speaks (through His Word the Bible), provides, establishes our thoughts as His saints, protects, and so much more. The genuine saint DOES NOT OFTEN TIMES know for sure until a latter point in time when THEN, we can look back and have seen the Lord’s gracious loving care, protection, etc.! To say that every time one has a thought, an experience of some sort, a sense, etc., is from the Lord God is to open yourself up to DEMONIC MYSTICISM! This IS the New Age spirit of antichrist, and you will be sucked right into the vacuum of gross deceptions just like the discerning saint now sees going on all around us!

    I thank God in how that HE, has established your thoughts, or have impressed on you things that you needed to know - and YES He does do this - BUT, one can not unequivocally make that claim as a rule until you look back LATER, thus seeing His care! God does NOT speak in any other way other than the CLOSED CANNON of HIS WORD! There is a huge difference in what I have already shared AND God speaking through His Word! IF, you insistent on believing any other way you will end up getting sucked up into a great delusion that is already being seen!

    Sounding fourth TRUTH in these END TIMES,
    Rick Buffington
    Metro Atlanta

    An Excellent Web site Where TRUTH can be found: www.gty.org

  11. VERY good warning from Rick... thank you!

  12. Well, I believe that the "still small voice" does tell me things upon occasion...especially when I am going the wrong way, but I also happen to know that when the Gaines' store closed the first time...it was due to bankruptcy. I wonder what God said about that??
    Thank you for this GREAT post!!