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 28th. Although his memorial service was not a star-studded event in the worldly sense, people from Maryland, Virginia, and literally 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 from the Exodus movement (of which Alan was the first president 30 years ago) came to the funeral as well, and many more sent notes and grieved from afar. Joe Dallas, author of such books as Desires in Conflict and more recently, The Complete Christian Guide to Understanding Homosexuality (co-authored with Nancy Heche), 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 Andy 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 as a participant in Regeneration’s New Beginnings program (now called Rescue) for men seeking freedom from sexual addictions. 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. When he finally came, do you know what he shared with us? In his humble way, he spoke to us about the vital importance of spending daily quiet 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 November 1974, while immersed in a double life, 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. Miraculously, Jesus set him free from the desire to be active homosexually. This would define Alan’s life from that time forward.
Five years later, in 1979, Alan started Regeneration – with 4 people attending the first meeting, including him. Of course, after his conversion, 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 homosexuality. And he never wavered believing that others could experience the freedom he knew and more—whether it happened in an instant or over a lifetime—because he trusted in the power and love of Christ.
Like Christ Loved the Church
In recent years, Alan had been focusing his time and energies on writing a second book, this time for men struggling with lust. He felt it would be a tremendous help to thousands of men (and having read it, I’m sure he is right), and he desperately wanted to complete it and get it published. (Plans to get the book published have been put on hold indefinitely, unfortunately.) Alan had many health problems and more than a few hospitalizations, but he would always return to his work on this book.
In the summer of 2009, Willa suffered a massive stroke. Since then, she has required nearly 24/7 care, and he had to learn to serve her in brand new ways. His book took a back seat to serving Willa. 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 last spring, when he remarked how Christ was continuing to purify his love, and as a result he felt he loved Willa more now than he ever had before.
Early this summer, 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. He sought Christ’s Kingdom over his own earthly kingdom.
• He gave 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.
• Alan gave his name and reputation: Google Alan’s name and you’ll find a mix of ministry-related articles and a few truly vitriolic comments by some who say they’re glad he’s dead because he held to the truth that homosexuality is not God’s intent for men and women. 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 letter. But in another way, nothing more needs to be said. The fruit of his life speaks on in his wife, in his children and grandchildren, in his colleagues at Regeneration, and in literally thousands of men and women around the world. I am one of those thousands who is 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. It has occurred to me that on Monday, June 28th, Jesus was already up, standing in the room while Alan slept. And then when the time had arrived, I wonder if Jesus simply leaned over Alan and gently whispered his name. I think I can imagine, as some of you can, the expression Alan must have had on his face when he opened his eyes, and saw now finally the face of his Lord and his 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 with unwanted homosexual attractions, pornography addictions, promiscuity, the effects of past sexual abuse, and other forms of sexual and relational sins and brokenness. Who will reach out to them? Who will give up a job if necessary? Who will give sacrificially of their finances? Who pour out the time needed? Who of those who has experienced freedom will come out of hiding and share their testimony? Who will lay down his/her name and reputation for the sake of those who would otherwise be alone and without hope?
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 with sexual sin? 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 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. Even as we still grieve, we choose to arise in our sadness, 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!