The Rev. Randy Frazee, senior minister at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, knew he was making a controversial decision when he invited atheist Hemant Mehta to speak to the 8,000-member congregation and share his perspective on Christians and their attitudes toward atheists. But he also believed that, in the end, it would benefit church leaders, the congregation, and even Mehta in the process.
Mehta, a Chicago public high school math teacher who writes the "Friendly Atheist" blog on Patheos, first met Frazee in 2006-2007 after he "sold his soul" on eBay and received a winning bid of $504 from a former pastor who asked Mehta to visit 10 Chicago-area churches and write about his experiences on the pastor's ministry website.
Among the churches Mehta was assigned to attend was Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill., where he watched Frazee, then a teaching pastor at the church, preach a Wednesday night sermon.
Although Mehta wasn't moved to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and savior that night, or anytime thereafter, he did build a lasting friendship with Frazee, who believed the OHC campuses could learn from hearing an outsider's perspective on what Christians are getting right, and what they're getting wrong, especially when trying to convert nonbelievers.