by Josh Glaser, Executive Director
There are few occasions in life that compel us to stop and consider—really consider—the brief life we’re living. Am I living my life well? Of all that I spend my time doing, how much is really making a difference for good in others’ lives? How much of what I’ve done is weighty enough to last through this age and into the age to come? Do I love like Jesus loves?
The death of Regeneration’s founder, Alan Medinger, in June has been one of those occasions for me, prompting these kinds of questions and more.
Alan died early in the morning on Monday, June 28, 2010. Although his memorial service was not a star-studded event in the worldly sense, people from Maryland, Virginia, and around the country drove and flew in to remember Alan and honor his legacy.
I talked with a man at Alan’s viewing who had never met Alan. He’d read Alan’s book Growth into Manhood six months earlier and was profoundly impacted; he read it two more times in the following months. And when he’d heard Alan passed away, he said he just had to come see him.
Several leaders of ministries like Regeneration came to the funeral as well, and many more sent notes and grieved from afar. Joe Dallas, author of Desires in Conflict, posted this note online:
“[Alan’s] legacy includes a stable/stabilizing influence that was exerted throughout Exodus for decades; relevant and user friendly educational material; an organization [that had] high credibility; a standard of excellence and a call to keep our work Christ-centered and doctrinally sound. All of this from a man who was unfailingly cordial and loving, unobtrusive but hugely influential. . . . I’ve known few people who warrant as much respect as Alan does.”
Alan’s life was a life well-lived, a life given over to Christ and His Kingdom. And so as we remember Alan, we do so, as Andrew Comiskey, founder of Desert Stream Ministries and author of the Living Waters program, put it at the memorial service, “without regret.”
The Most Important Thing
I first met Alan in 1996 when I was first a participant in one of Regeneration’s groups. I was learning all sorts of new and helpful information that I’d never been exposed to before. Alan wasn’t a regular part of that program, but he came and spoke to us once, and I was eager to hear what great wisdom he would bring us. In classic Alan style, the one message he chose to share with us was about the vital importance of spending daily devotional times with the Lord.
For Alan, spending daily times with Jesus was central to his life, his walk, and his ministry. And he was so faithful to start every day that way. He called these times “the most important thing you can do,” and he believed it. He always said that his times with the Lord were when he got all his material for his well-known newsletter articles and his best ideas for Regeneration.
But mostly for Alan, his daily times with the Lord came out of his unquenchable love for Christ and the awe he felt at what Christ had done for him. In the 1970’s, Alan was immersed in a double life in which he would slip away from his wife and kids at home to have anonymous sexual encounters with men. His life was spiraling and things were getting worse. In November 1974, Alan attended a prayer meeting he’d been invited to by a friend from work. At that meeting, Alan prayed silently a simple prayer, giving his life to Jesus and asking for His help. In that moment, God moved imperceptibly but miraculously. That night, Alan smoked his last cigarette, and in the days that followed, he found he no longer had the urge to act out sexually with other men, but he had a new love for Jesus and spent daily time in prayer, worship, and Scripture reading. And he found himself falling in love anew with his wife, Willa. These three miracles (as Alan saw them) would define his life from this time forward.
Five years later, in 1979, Alan started Regeneration – with 4 people attending the first meeting, including him. Of course, after his conversion to Christ, he and Willa had to begin their own journey of restoration. Over time, they began ministering together. Most would agree Alan was better with Willa. The two of them seemed simultaneously an odd pair and a perfect fit—in many ways a model of the complementary nature of man and woman. And over the years, hundreds of men and women came to feel Alan and Willa were like a surrogate father and mother to them.
The ministry grew, but for Alan Regeneration remained an expression of wanting for others the life changing love and power of Jesus. And so whether at the office or in his home, working for Regeneration or after his retirement, he was ever about this kind of ministry, with a particular heart for men and women struggling with unwanted same-sex sexual attractions and behaviors. And he never wavered believing that in Jesus others could experience the freedom he knew—whether in an instant or over a lifetime—because Alan trusted in the power and love of Christ.
Like Christ Loved the Church
In the final years of Alan’s life, he had been focusing his time and energies on writing a second book for all men struggling with lust. He felt it would be a tremendous help to thousands of men, and he desperately wanted to complete it and get it published. Alan had many health problems and more than a few hospitalizations, but he would always return to his writing. But the book was never published.
In the summer of 2009, Willa suffered a massive stroke. She required nearly 24/7 care, and Alan put other ministry on hold to learn to serve her in new ways. As difficult as all of this was, he came to view caring for Willa as an opportunity from the Lord to learn to love her more selflessly. This became his main goal—to love Willa sacrificially for as long as he could—to love her like Christ loved the church. I remember talking with him the spring before he died when he remarked how Christ was continuing to purify his love, and as a result he felt he loved Willa more then than he ever had. He was extremely grateful.
Early in the summer of 2010, Alan and Willa celebrated their 50th Anniversary with their children and grandchildren. If you ever get the chance to see the pictures of that evening’s celebration, you should. What love.
Seeking a Better Kingdom
Alan lived his life for the sake of those caught in sexual sin and brokenness. He stepped up and answered when God called, in a day and time when virtually no one was willing to reach out to men and women struggling with same-sex sexual temptations. Alan did not strive for a spotlight. He simply wanted to love Jesus as Jesus had loved him.
And so he sought Christ’s Kingdom over his own earthly kingdom:
• He gave up his career. When Alan started sharing his testimony publically in the 80’s, the Baltimore company he worked for asked him either to stop or to step down from his (successful) position. Alan gladly resigned.
• He gave his finances. When Alan decided to serve Regeneration full-time, he walked through every room of his house praying, giving everything to the Lord. When Regeneration fell behind budget, Alan went without pay, viewing it as opportunity to suffer for the gospel.
• He gave his time. Ministry wasn’t 9 – 5 for Alan. The ministry started in Alan and Willa’s home and they had people over regularly. And Alan viewed his retirement as simply a different phase of ministry.
• He gave his name and reputation. Not long after Alan’s death, I Googled Alan’s name and found a mix of ministry-related articles but also truly vitriolic comments by some who wrote that they were glad for his death, simply because he held to the truth of God’s design for sexuality and sought to help others find the hope he had. For the sake of those who wanted help, Alan did not let the views of his critics keep him from speaking out for Christ.
Much, much more could be said about Alan’s life and legacy. I’ve written only a very little. I have not and cannot do justice to his memory in one post. But nothing more needs to be said. The fruit of his life speaks on in his children and grandchildren, in the lives still being changed through Regeneration, and in literally thousands of men and women around the world whom Alan loved and served. I am one of those thousands, and I am eternally grateful.
I mentioned earlier how Alan would faithfully wake each day to spend time with Jesus. In the Gospels, we read of Jesus waking very early in the morning for prayer, too. Soon after Alan’s death, I believe God gave me a picture. In it, on that Monday, June 28th, Jesus was already up, standing in the room where Alan slept. When the time was right, Jesus approached Alan’s bed, leaned over him, and whispered his name. I could not see much more than that, but I think I can imagine, as some of you can, the expression on Alan’s face when he opened his eyes, and saw now finally the face of his Lord, Savior, and best Friend.
A New Day for Regeneration
As I said, Alan’s death has prompted me to take a look at my life and ask some hard questions. I want to encourage you to do the same. Though not perfectly, Alan poured out his life for those who were caught in sexual sin and brokenness. Thousands are glad he did. Since you are reading this, you’re one, like me, who has been impacted in one way or another by Alan’s legacy. More importantly, he sought to live faithfully to all that the Father asked him to do, giving up much in the process. And now it’s our turn.
The work and mission of Christ to the sexually broken continues. There are more men, women, and kids than ever who are struggling, confused, and tossed here and there by the influences of the world. Who will reach out to them? Who will be willing to give up careers, finances, and time? Among those who have experienced the freedom of Christ, who will forsake the comfort of anonymity and share their testimony of what Jesus has done, whether with one friend or with the listening world?
I’ve spent this letter seeking to honor Alan. But I would do his life a disservice to speak of him as though he were something remarkably different than you or me. Those close to him know without equivocation how imperfect he was. He knew it, too. The glory of Alan’s life is not that he was a great and holy man. Rather, the glory of his life is that he was an ordinary man who submitted to an extraordinary Savior. He had one life. And through faithfully following Jesus, his one life made a profound difference.
Would you give your life to Christ and follow Him wherever He leads you? Would you do so for the sake of the men and women around you struggling in secret? Would you do so for the glory of Jesus? Wherever you are in your own journey, would you follow Him? Just think what God could do!
As for me and Regeneration, we intend to follow Christ and Christ alone. We intend to bring the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ to those yet caught in sexual sin and those hurt by sexual sin. United with Him, we intend to keep crucifying lust so we may grow in love for every man and every woman just as He does. We will do so by the grace of God, empowered by His Spirit, and emboldened by the example of Alan and the great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us—men and women of faith of whom “God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:16).
Please join us in prayer, in giving, in serving. For our brothers and sisters, for Christ and His Kingdom!