by Russell Willingham

In the midst of counseling, group work, and serving church leaders it’s easy to focus attention on the local impact of NCM. But God has a way of surprising our team when we least expect it.

We recently participated in a national event where the wide-reaching impact of NCM and Russell’s work became evident. Here is a little glimpse into how God continues to use NCM to impact lives across the nation.

In April, Mike and I had the privilege of attending the Sexual Integrity Leadership Summit in St. Louis, Missouri. This is a gathering of leaders and recovery people devoted to promoting a Gospel-centered sexuality.

This year I presented a workshop on The Relational Principle. I told the audience that this idea has guided our work at NCM for decades. 

The relational principle can be summed up in two sentences. 

  1. All that matters in time and eternity is that we are truly relational. 
  2. Our purpose is to be relational with God, our true self, and those around us. 

If we live by this truth we will defeat addiction in our lives. We will develop an inner hatred for sin. We will fulfill the law. We will experience our greatest joy. And we will receive a rich reward in heaven. Who wouldn’t want that?

Of course, this requires the ongoing power of Jesus. But even believers who know God’s power don’t always grasp the relational principle. And this causes them to miss out on some of God’s greatest gifts.

In the near future, NCM will offer classes to the public that explain this truth (as well as other topics that are relevant to growth). We will let you know as these events become available. (Pastors, these trainings can be of great help to your people who are eager for short-term classes that address these vital issues!) 

These are the principles I shared at the St. Louis conference. Mike and I also had lots of one-on-one conversations with leaders and strugglers alike. As he often does at events like this, God also gave me some wonderful gifts. 

The first gift was meeting the guy in the exhibitor’s booth right next to us. When I introduced myself to Steve he smiled and said, “You probably don’t remember me, do you? Twenty years ago you came to Seattle and spent some time with us and the guys in our ministry.” My memory was fuzzy, but it started coming back to me.

“I was just starting my recovery back then. And your book had been a huge help to me. I was impacted even more deeply when you came in person and shared your heart with us.”

I thanked him for his encouragement, but he wasn’t done. 

“Since then I’ve become the director of the ministry (Prodigals International). Not only that but using some of the things you taught us has caused our ministry to really grow. We now have twenty-two groups that meet throughout the Pacific Northwest.” I was amazed to hear this, and we thanked God together for what he had done.  

The Lord gave me a second gift through a woman named Barbara Steffens. She has done national research with the spouses of sexually addicted men. In her study, she found that a majority of these women met nine of the ten criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Her work has been a game-changer for many of us who work with betrayed spouses.

On the last day of the conference, I had a chance to introduce myself to her. I told her how much I loved her teaching that week. I also thanked her for all her work with broken couples. She looked at my name tag and said, “Russell, your name sounds familiar. Where do I know it from?”

I told her I had been in the booth across from her. And I told her she may have come across Breaking Free at some point. She said, “That’s where I know your name! Twenty years ago my husband found your book when he was going through his own recovery from sex addiction. Of all the books he read your’s was the one that hit him right where he lived.”

I couldn’t believe I was hearing this well-respected leader tell me that I played a role in her husband’s healing (and that I influenced her life and ministry too). I almost wept right there. 

When I went back to our booth the Lord whispered to me, “See? I told you I had gifts for you here.” Indeed he did. I am so grateful for the way God has used NCM over the years (way beyond what I could ever imagine). As supporters and intercessors, you have played a part in every bit of it! Thank you!