Listen to the song in the video above; The ‘Learn How To Play’ video is at the bottom of this page.
I Have Decided to Follow Jesus has its origins in India. There’s an apocryphal story about its inspiration. A man and his family converted to Christianity through the efforts of a missionary to his home in Assam. The village leadership took serious exception to his conversion, and tried to force him to renounce Christianity. The man responded “I have decided to follow Jesus.”
The threats escalated to include his family, and he responded “Though no one joins me, still I will follow.” He and his wife were both executed. He died while declaring “The cross before me, the world behind me.” The famed Indian Missionary Sadhu Sundar Singh is credited with turning this impassioned expression into a hymn.
As an American, I tend to think of my own cultural history. Religious freedom was fought for, and people suffered greatly for their faith. But faith is tested and tried in every culture. From enemies without, and by stealth within. Sorry, but one of my pet peeves is aimed at people who claim to be christian, but act more in line with evil. It’s no wonder non-Christians question our motives, when so many villains are disguised as Christians.
Anyway, back to the subject; “I Have Decided” gained American recognition in 1959 when William Reynolds collected it into his songbook. His arrangement was used often by Billy Graham, so it’s no wonder so many people know and love it by now.
One last note, according to Wiki, the hymn represents “Decision Theology”. I’ve never heard of that before, but I can understand why some people would find it troubling. I believe God gave us choice, freedom, and expects us to make our own decisions. But some creeds emphasize God’s direct action in giving us faith. They see ‘decision theology’ as a challenge to their belief. And then, some leadership sees ‘decision theology’ as a challenge to their secular power. Power corrupts, and humans are eminently corruptible. I’d rather have a direct line to God, and skip the middleman. :^)
For those who honestly dispute the idea, I can respect their stand… but I’m going to respectfully disagree.
As far as playing the song goes, as usual I have some fun with the melody. No disrespect intended to the brave man who originated the words, but when we sing in today’s church, I don’t think it has quite the same meaning as it originally did.