Russ grew up in Miami, Oklahoma, the youngest of six children. His father was the minister of the First Christian Church in Miami for 27 years.
Russ was baptized as a child, but then as a senior in high school he really experienced a true life-change. He moved to Norman on September 1, 1977.
On June 5th, 1993 he married Janna Storey.
She earned her doctorate degree in communication at the University of Oklahoma, where she is now a full time instructor in Communications and Human Relations.
Russ & Janna have three kids - Michael, 19; Megan, 17 and Matthew, 11.
Russ has been in Norman for over 38 years. He began his ministry as youth pastor at University Christian Church. There his gift for reaching unchurched resulted in dramatic growth.
In the fall of 1979, Russ was called by God to start a church that would be designed to reach out to people who were far from God. New Life Bible Church became the first contemporary - style church in Oklahoma. The dress, rock and roll band, dramas, medias and relevant talks were quite a shock to some people back then. Soon, however, they came to realize that underlying Russ' ministry was conservative theology, spiritual authenticity and living a life of integrity.
New Life began in a warehouse, was in the Boomer Theater on campus corner for two years, before moving to the corner of Boyd & Berry (with stays at the Norman High School cafeteria among other places during the transition).
There were 85 people present on opening day, of December 1985. The church began to reach more and more people and developed a reputation for being "the church for people who never thought they would like church."
About this time Russ became connected with Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago. He had the opportunity to do a four-month internship there in the winter/spring of 1989. He was privileged to be invited by Bill Hybels, along with other like-minded pastors, to small retreats that eventually gave birth to the Willow Creek Association. Today the WCA has over 12,000 affiliated churches worldwide.
In 1996 New Life moved into a new 8500 square foot building, still at the corner of Boyd & Berry. Over the next ten years God used the church to reach hundreds of people. Between 50 and 100 people were baptized each year, the majority of them over the age of 18. The church grew to an average attendance of over 1200 people each Sunday.
After 25 years, there was a shift in ministry focus and priorities, and so once again Russ followed God's call to start a church dedicated to reaching the unchurched.
The Seeker Church had its first service in October of 2006. Immediately the spirit of love, unity and authenticity experienced in the
years at Boyd & Berry returned.
Russ now describes it as "about the worst thing that could ever have happened, God turned into about the best thing that could have ever happened. If I had known how great things were going to be, I would have done this five years ago."
Russ' primary gift has always been his love for and affinity with people who are far from God. His speaking style has been described as laid back, relevant, Biblical, funny, transparent and compelling.