Russ grew up in Ohio where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Bluffton University, Bluffton Ohio. He also has an MA and a Ph.D. from Louisiana Baptist University. While attending Bluffton he played both basketball and baseball. Russ is married to Vicky and they have two children, Travis and Jennifer, both serving in ministry. After graduating from Bluffton, Russ and Vicky moved to Goldsboro, North Carolina where he served at Faith Christian Academy. When Southeastern Free Will Baptist College began in 1983 Russ became one of the original faculty members and continues to serve the college today. Through the years Russ has conducted multiple workshops at the North Carolina Christian School conventions and the Southeast Christian School Convention as well as faculty development seminars for Christian schools.