WACO, Texas (Christian Examiner) – Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of the popular Fixer Upper television series and owners of the decorating haven Magnolia Market, credit Billy Graham with strengthening their calling to use their skills in ministry.
"The impact that man has had on my life is immeasurable," Chip told the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.
In fact, Chip says, his faith journey started with his mother, who attended a Billy Graham Crusade in 1976, the year he was born.
His mother, already a Christian, answered the altar call to rededicate her life that night, a choice that would have a lasting impact on Chip and Joanna and their children. Chip's mother and father modeled the Christian walk for him.
"My parents made attending church a priority, [which] strengthened their marriage, and they involved themselves in a young couple's Sunday school class," Chip explained. "In the 1990s, my mom worked at Word Publishing, which published books for Billy Graham. She found continued encouragement in his writing."
Another significant spiritual guide for Chip came during his years at Baylor University. He spent a week in the home of Danny and Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham's daughter and son-in-law.
"He wasn't a pastor, but he was influential in showing me how to live out my faith, even in a secular environment," Chip said of Danny Lotz. "He impacted my life by spurring me to shape my choices with my faith and to walk in my faith regardless of my 'calling.'"
Chip has applied this wisdom in his life by trusting in God's plans for his and Joanna's television show and store.
"He [Lotz] challenged me to process what God was doing in my life and train my mind with God's truth," Chip said. "I learned so much from him, and he always spoke so highly of [Billy Graham], who he said talked the talk and walked the walk. So, to this day I think about talking the talk and walking the walk because of Billy Graham and Danny Lotz."
WALKING THE WALK
Likewise, Joanna was challenged to listen to God's word and step out in faith regarding her identity and her passions.
In a video testimony, she describes an early school experience when she became aware that being half-Korean, half-white made her different from other children. From that point stemmed many insecurities that might have prevented her from following her dreams if not for Chip.
She remembers hearing God promise her a platform before she had any idea what that meant. She now believes Fixer Upper is the fulfillment of that promise.
Early in their marriage, Chip encouraged her to step out and realize her dreams to begin a business rather than just hoping or wishing to be a business owner.
"Your promise that you spoke years ago, I've now seen," Joanna said, praising God for having a specific, personal plan for her.
Yet following God's plan has not always been easy for the couple. Despite the success of Magnolia Market, the Gaineses felt called to close it while their children were young so that they could focus on parenting.
She said she felt like her dream was dying on the day they closed up the shop. But God told her at that moment, "Joanna, trust me with your dreams."
GOD'S PERFECT TIMING
"God taught me to study the Word and believe it, even when it hadn't been fulfilled yet," Joanna said. "I really had to cultivate a place of faith that I never had before.
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"This trust brought peace, although my circumstance hadn't yet reflected his promise," she continued. "His Word doesn't return void, and God was working in my heart to establish deeper levels of trust that I now look back on and am thankful for."
The Gainses, who now have four children, were contacted by a production company to launch the show that would become Fixer Upper, now in its third season. They have also recently relaunched Magnolia Market in God's perfect timing.
"Our family has made a commitment to put Christ first, a lifestyle our parents modeled for us very well. They showed us how to keep our marriage and family centered around God," Chip said.
The new Magnolia Market, which occupies a renovated grain silo, will have a showroom for Joanna's new furniture line and will feature home décor from their show.
"As for Fixer Upper," Chip said, "we have been surprised at the impact of our faith through the show. We haven't been overtly evangelical, but the rich feedback we have received on family and love all source from our faith. Jesus said the world would know His disciples by their love for one another, and we've glimpsed this in practice and strive for it every day."