I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
The lyrics are based on the last words of a man in Assam, north-east India, who along with his family was converted to Christianity in the middle of the 19th century through the efforts of a Welsh missionary. Called to renounce his faith by the village chief, the convert declared, "I have decided to follow Jesus." In response to threats to his family, he continued, "Though no one joins me, still I will follow." His wife was killed, and he was executed while singing, "The cross before me, the world behind me." This display of faith is reported to have led to the conversion of the chief and others in the village.
The formation of these words into a hymn is attributed to the Indian missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh. The melody is also Indian, and entitled "Assam" after the region where the text originated. The fierce opposition is possible as various tribes in that area were formerly renowned for head-hunting.
An American hymn editor, William Jensen Reynolds, composed an arrangement which was included in the 1959 Assembly Songbook. His version became a regular feature of Billy Graham's evangelistic meetings in America and elsewhere, spreading its popularity.
Due to the lyrics' explicit focus on the believer's own commitment, the hymn is cited as a prime example of decision theology, emphasising the human response rather than the action of God in giving faith. This has led to its exclusion from some hymnals. A Lutheran writer noted, "It definitely has a different meaning when we sing it than it did for the person who composed it."
The 2006 film Though None Go with Me uses a line from the song as its title.
- ' Dr P. Job, 'Why, God, Why. Cited at CCEL, 3 October 2011.
- "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus", Timeless Truths Free Online Library. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
- Assam (tune) at Hymnary.org
- headhunting at Encyclopædia Britannica
- Newsletter of CCEL, 3 October 2011.
- Adelle M. Banks, One Congregation's Hymnal Is Another's Blasphemy: Missoui Synod leaders go after the African-American Hymnal, beliefnet. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
- David S. Payne, Dialing for Doctrine, Forward in Christ, May 1986, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. Retrieved 2011-10-09.