I recently asked Larry Eskridge why he chose to write about Larry Burkett (see "When Burkett Speaks, Evangelicals Listen, " p. 44).

"I wanted to find out what evangelicals on the popular level do with the Bible and finance," Eskridge said.

"But that was too big a bite to chew."

So he asked what popular figure had the most systematic approach to finances and the greatest entrée to the evangelical public. Larry Burkett was the obvious answer.

"I started looking around, and I found that nothing but a few short magazine articles had been written on him," Eskridge said.

"Certainly no academic studies."

So following his nose for evangelical popular culture, Eskridge decided to write the first major academic paper and the first major magazine article about Burkett. Has Eskridge really written the first major article on Burkett? Our own Internet search turned up a lot of material by Burkett, a few brief debunking efforts, and a lot of sites selling Burkett's books and other materials. One of the debunkers labeled Burkett the

"Bill Gothard of so-called Christian finance" and concluded that his seminars are "the latest satanic 'wile' to entrap historical separatists-fundamentalists in the neo-evangelical net."

Caveat investor. Eskridge is associate director of the Wheaton College–based Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals (ISAE). When reporters, historians, and social scientists call Christianity Today to ask background questions about American evangelicals, we try to answer their questions and then frequently refer them to our friends at ISAE. ISAE director Edith Blumhofer has specialized knowledge of American Pentecostalism (see, for example, her book Aimee Semple McPherson: Everybody's Sister, published by Eerdmans in 1994). And Eskridge focuses on the popular culture of evangelicalism (he calls himself a "Jesus People aficionado" and is under contract with Baker Book House to produce a volume on the history of that movement). But both scholars are broad in their knowledge of the evangelical family and relate well to journalists who are babes in evangelical land.Three articles in this issue have connections to ISAE. We welcome back regular contributors Michael Hamilton ("We're in the Money," p. 36) and John Stackhouse ( "The Seven Deadly Signs," p. 54). And Eskridge makes his CT debut with his essay on Burkett. These articles report research conducted as part of the Lilly Endowment –funded ISAE project called

"The Financing of American Evangelical Religion."

The project commissioned about 30 different papers. Hamilton delivered his paper as a public lecture about 18 months ago at an ISAE consultation. Other papers from the project will be included in More Money, More Ministry, a volume forthcoming from Eerdmans in October.What else is ISAE up to? In mid-May the institute hosted a consultation on "Hymnody in American Protestantism," including a public lecture and three hymn festivals. Yet to come are a book of essays, a CD, and two-dozen choral arrangements by nine well-known composers.Hymnologists frequently write about why writers wrote hymn texts and what musical settings they used, says Eskridge. But historians have largely ignored hymns as the "bearers of popular theology and piety and devotion" that they are. "Just try to remember any sermon you've heard," says Eskridge. "Any sermon." You can't, can you? But chances are "you can remember all five verses of the hymns you've grown up singing." Unless, of course, you grew up singing the first and last verses only.

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