We present a systematical theory for the interplay of strong localization effects and absorption or gain of classical waves in 3-dimensional, disordered dielectrics. The theory is based on the selfconsistent Cooperon resummation, implementing the effects of energy conservation and its absorptive or emissive corrections by an exact, generalized Ward identity. Substantial renormalizations are found, depending on whether the absorption/gain occurs in the scatterers or in the background medium. We find a finite, gain-induced correlation volume which may be significantly smaller than the scale set by the scattering mean free path, even if there are no truly localized modes. Possible consequences for coherent feedback in random lasers as well as the possibility of oscillatory in time behavior induced by sufficiently strong gain are discussed.