Kristi Watts, former co-host, 700 Club by Frances Butler
The higher the watts in a lightbulb, the brighter it shines.
When the name Kristi Watts is mentioned, evident faith in God and riotous laughter comes to mind. For over a decade she was co-host of the 700 Club program on CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network), a magazine-style blend of interviews, trending news, testimonies, answers to questions from viewers and prayers. It was hardly unusual to wonder and anticipate what Kristi, who exudes immense grace and never entertains a dull moment, had in her bag of humor for the day to lighten up the impact of often harrowing topics addressed on the show.
No stranger to adversity herself, she survived divorce, left a prestigious high-paying career and is often transparent about her low points in life to encourage others who may be facing misfortunes too. She is the recent author of a book titled, “Talk Yourself Happy.” In the book, Kristi underlines for Christians, the stumbling blocks to true joy and demonstrates the real transformational power in speaking God’s word.
I had a recent sit-down with Kristi to discuss her life and work as a TV host, producer and writer, and her new book, "Talk Yourself Happy."
Tell us how your journey on the 700 Club began and how you were able to captivate large numbers of viewers as you did.
I started out in 1999. I had studied journalism in school and earned a Master’s degree in Communications broadcasting. And so, initially, to be honest with you, I wanted to work in children’s television. That was my heart. And I was on my way to work for…tried to work for Nickelodeon in New York City and I didn’t get the job and I remember sitting in my car crying, just crying out to God saying, Lord, what do you want me to do? He said Christian TV and I said, other than that Lord, what do you want me to do? To be honest with you, I thought that my personality was too wild and I was too extra to fit into the mold of Christian television. To be honest with you, I always thought Christian television was boring. I’m a black Jersey girl with all this personality and they can’t handle all this. But the Lord was like, no, Christian television.
At the time, I was working at FOX television, I was one of the co-hosts of a couple of different shows and…I was a very big fish in a small pond. And…during that time, I quit and I went to work at a really small Christian station in Ohio where I think the only viewers were a couple of cows. Everybody thought I was crazy because I left a big time station to work for Christian television of all places. Anyway, the Lord was gracious with that and I did it for two years. And then I said, okay, I did what you wanted me to do now let me go back to secular television. This was a secondary thought, I said Lord, the only way I would do Christian television is if it was the 700 Club because…my mum used to watch the 700 Club when I was little and so…I was well aware of it and it was a highly respected program. How I got there, it makes no sense at all but the Lord. I did not audition or try or send resumes, I did nothing. Nothing but Jesus. So, I was married at the time and I went to NRB, the National Religious Broadcasters and just to kind of get a feel of it but after three days I said, yeah Lord, I still don’t fit here. Everybody has big hair, blue eyeshadow, and after three days, I was ready to go back to secular television. Then I ran into this guy who was cool. He said what do you do and I said I’m a TV producer and he said do you have a resume and I did and handed it to him. He gave me his card but I did not pay attention and I put the card in my pocket. When I walked out to the parking lot, I looked at the card and it said, ‘Vice President of the 700 Club’. His name is Andy Freeman, I met him on a Friday and he called me on the Tuesday and the next week they flew me out and the next week, I was working for the 700 Club.
On your website homepage, I pulled a quote from your welcome message, “my training comes from dealing with crazy people in a crazy life, giving me a plethora of stories to share.” Do these experiences form the basis or inspiration for your new book?
They do in a sense. I never knew that my life was going to unfold the way that it did. I was the youngest co-host the 700 Club has ever had. I was 27 years old when I started and in my early 40s when I left. A year before I left, Myles Munroe had a word for me. I would sit in my office and my heart just hurt all the time. I would have different people coming to my office all the time and these Christians, they would just share their heart and their issues and I was like, man, there are so many hurting people. And sometimes in Christian television, we have this formula, and the formula is, your life is horrible, you find Jesus and your life is great. And that’s not true.
And so, I started to hear a lot of people’s stories and I said Lord, I just want your heart. A year later, the Lord had me out on my own completely by myself in the wilderness, no job, no money, no friends, no nothing. I was at rock bottom. I was baffled and I was bewildered. I said, okay Lord, are you mad at me, what in the world happened? I would do Bible studies in my house and I would walk my dog and pray all the time. One day I was walking my dog and the lord said, Kristi, how can you minister to the nations if you can’t minister to the people next door? So God walks me through a series of tests where He would say, “Go knock on that person’s door and pray for them.” As I would pray, Holy Spirit would fall and move in a big way in that person’s life. Another day the Lord would say, “Go knock on that person’s door and clean their house. It’s a single mother she needs help.” I would say Lord, I’m a single mother and I need help. Next you know, I’m on my hands and knees scrubbing dog urine. It was stories like that God used to humble me, break me and to more importantly, give me his heart. He had to remove my stone heart, the hardened heart and the pride and arrogance that I had when I was on television.
What I didn’t realize was, it was really easy to sit on a set and tell the world to trust in God when I had everything at my fingertips. It was really easy to have the joy of the Lord, when life was good. God got me to the point where I had to come to the end of myself to realize that joy is not contingent upon any circumstances. The true joy of the Lord is when you’re in the presence of God and oftentimes what gets us in the presence of God, are the trials and tribulations that hit us. God had to show me what true joy and true happiness was. For two years, I had no job, no money, I was living off of my son’s college fund and our savings accounts. I cried for five days straight. I thought that God had ignored me, I thought that God had forgotten me, I thought that I had failed somebody or the Lord. I was disheartened beyond belief. I prayed and fasted and did everything we would do. My mother would call and try to console me, nothing worked. My sister was going through a divorce and I told my mom to remind her when God did this for me…and remember the time when He did that and the other. And I started to think back of the times that I had experienced the hand of God in my life. The more I started to remember, the more the heavy weight was lifting off me and a joy started to well up in my spirit and that spirit of oppression started to leave. And before long, I started to laugh. Thus, the concept of the book.
In the book, Talk Yourself Happy, you offer us tips to talk ourselves happy. How important are these pointers to the believer?
It’s everything. So many of us get so disheartened and discouraged by our circumstances, by what we see or don’t have. So, oftentimes, because God is Spirit, we visibly can’t see Him. So the only way we can truly see God, is by seeing His handprint in our lives. And saying, “God healed me, remember when God healed me…remember when He touched me…remember when He protected me…and God did this and God did that. It’s connecting with God on a personal, intimate level. That no matter how I preach to a person or how much they sit in church, they’re never going to know what the love of Jesus Christ is unless they experience it. Those tips are vital to our walk because it all revolves around experiencing Jesus Christ for yourself. Point blank period!
And what would you say to the Christians who would say God is more interested in building our character, often through pain and suffering, and not in our happiness?
You know that’s interesting because I did this interview and the interviewer was focused so much on the word happiness. She couldn’t get past it. She said Kristi, it’s not about happiness, it’s about joy of the Lord. And I said, I agree. However, we’ve got to recognize that there are over 27 verses in the bible that talk about happiness. The Greek word for joy, is happy. For instance, there’s a Scripture, my favorite all time Scripture: “Whosoever trusts in the Lord, happy is he (Proverbs 16:20). Here’s the deal, when we trust God with our life, and when we abide in Christ, live in Christ, we get so much more than happiness, we get peace, joy, wisdom, direction, love, and I don’t know about you, all those things make me happy. If we look up the word, joy in Webster’s dictionary, it says, “to be happy.”
Producer, host, reporter and add “author” to the endless list. What’s next on the horizon for Kristi Watts? When should we expect to see Talk Yourself Happy in stores?
The book comes out January 3rd and there’s a whole line up of shows that I’ll be on, doing a host of interviews which I’m so excited about. I also do women’s conferences. One day, I might be back on television, if that’s what the Lord wants. Here’s the truth beyond the truth, my heart is just to encourage and love people right where they are. To get people to know who God is, not based upon who I tell them He is. But for them to know who He is for themselves, and know the Person of God in Jesus Christ and the Power of God through the Holy Spirit.
Kristi Watts website: http://www.kristiwattsministries.com