I Have Decided to Follow Jesus

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This is a charming hymn often sung during Sunday School. I wonder if there are any more hymns with melodies from India.

The world famous chorus ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’ was composed by a Garo Christian (a tribe in the North-Eastern part of India) probably during the early part of Christianity of the tribe (late 1800AD) when the American Baptist Missionaries were involved with the tribe. The tune naturally suits the Garo cultural ethos and taste. But the composer is still unknown.

Lyrics: Attributed to an Indian prince
Music: Folk melody from India, arr by Norman Johnson

I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
I have decided to follow Jesus;
No turning back, no turning back.

Though no one join me, still I will follow;
Though no one join me, still I will follow;
Though no one join me, still I will follow;
No turning back, no turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
The world behind me, the cross before me;
No turning back, no turning back.

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17 Responses to “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”

  1. Ruthie says:

    Wow,
    I had no idea that the origin of this hymn is from India, I wonder how much more hymns we are familiar with but not aware of their origin.This hymn is an all time classic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    which makes it of course one of my favs!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. stanley from India says:

    The world famous chorus ‘I have decided to follow Jesus’ was composed by a Garo Christian ( a tribe in the North-Eastern part of India) probably during the early part of Christianity of the tribe (late 1800AD) when the American Baptist Missionaries were involved with the tribe. The tune naturally suits the Garo cultural ethos and taste – lively and full high and low wave leght. But the composer is still unknown.

  3. admin says:

    Hi Stanley, thanks so much for the background of this hymn!

  4. stanley from India says:

    Because of the evil reputation and cruelty, Mughal rulers established a policy of non-interference with the early Garos. British too, saw in the early Garos, the same cruelty, dubbed them ‘Blood thirsty’ during the year 1867. Lord Delhousie commented in 1852 ‘These savages will neither treat, submit, nor rest’. It was so, when the Garos were lost to the dark spirituality headhunting. But this beautiful song depicts what a transformed heart in Christ can do!!! Reaching the whole world with the love of Christ!!!

  5. Thomas Koshy says:

    The story of the song is covered in the Book by Dr. P.P. Job and Indian preacher in His book “Why God Why” his email: jjob@pobox.com. An excerpt from the book is given below:About 150 years ago, there was a great revival in Wales, England. As a result of this, many missionaries came from England and Germany to North-East India to spread the Gospel. At the time, north-east India was not divided into many states as it is today. The region was known as Assam and comprised hundreds of tribes. The tribal communities were quite primitive and aggressive by nature. The tribals were also called head-hunters because of a social custom which required the male members of the community to collect as many heads as possible. A man’s strength and ability to protect his wife was assessed by the number of heads he had collected. Therefore, a youth of marriageable age would try and collect as many heads as possible and hang them on the walls of his house. The more heads a man had, the more eligible he was considered. Into this hostile and aggressive community, came a group of Welsh missionaries spreading the message of love, peace and hope of Jesus Christ. Naturally, they were not welcomed. One Welsh missionary succeeded in converting a man, his wife, and two children. This man’s faith proved contagious and many villagers began to accept Christianity. Angry, the village chief summoned all the villagers. He then called the family who had first converted to renounce their faith in public or face execution. Moved by the Holy Spirit, the man instantly composed a song which became famous down the years. He sang:

    I have decided to follow Jesus. (3 times)
    No turning back, no turning back.

    Enraged at the refusal of the man, the chief ordered his archers to arrow down the two children. As both boys lay twitching on the floor, the chief asked, “Will you deny your faith? You have lost both your children. You will lose your wife too.”

    But the man sang these words in reply:

    Though no one joins me, still I will follow. (3 times)
    No turning back, no turning back.

    The chief was beside himself with fury and ordered his wife to be arrowed down. In a moment she joined her two children in death. Now he asked for the last time, “I will give you one more opportunity to deny your faith and live.”

    In the face of death the man sang the final memorable lines:

    The cross before me, the world behind me. (3 times)
    No turning back, no turning back.

    He was shot dead like the rest of his family. But with their deaths, a miracle took place. The chief who had ordered the killings was moved by the faith of the man. He wondered, “Why should this man, his wife and two children die for a Man who lived in a far-away land on another continent some 2,000 years ago? There must be some supernatural power behind the family, and I too want that supernatural power.”

    In a spontaneous confession of faith, he declared, “I too belong to Jesus Christ!” When the crowd heard this from the mouth of their chief, the whole village accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. This is the power of [God in] demonstration.

  6. Thomas Koshy says:

    I submitted the comment

  7. LuckyGirlly says:

    http://subversiveinfluence.com/2009/05/hymns-of-my-youth-104-i-have-decided-to-follow-jesus/

    I was looking up this song to share with the children this morning when I happened across your site. Seems this particular song has a varied history of where it may have originated from.

    Hymns of My Youth #104: I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
    May 17th, 2009 — 1141 words by Brother Maynard
    Today for our series Then Sings My Soul: The Hymns of My Youth we turn to a familiar hymn, or song. It is one that is well-known in most Christian circles, but until I looked it up for this feature, I did not know who had written it. Its lyrics are simple and evoke an image of gospel crusades and altar calls… an image that is starting to call up mixed emotions for some of us. I find new insight into the lyrics by reviewing the life of its author.
    Sadhu Sundar Singh was born September 3, 1889 into an important landowning Sikh family in Patiala State in northern India. Sundar Singh’s mother took him week by week to sit at the feet of a Sadhu, an ascetic holy man, who lived in the jungle some miles away, but also sent him to a Christian high school where he could learn English.
    The death of his mother when he was fourteen plunged him into violence and despair. He persecuted the missionaries’ Christian converts and ridiculed their faith. In defiance of the Christian faith, he bought a Bible and burned it page by page in his home compound while his friends watched. Three nights later, he determined to commit suicide on a railway line. Sitting on the railway track, Sadhu loudly asked who is the true God. If the true God didn’t show Himself that night, he would commit suicide. Before dawn and shortly before the arrival of the train, God came to Sadhu. He wakened his father to announce that he had seen Jesus Christ in a vision and heard his voice: henceforth he would follow Christ forever, he declared. His father demanded that he give up this absurd conversion. When Sadhu refused, Sher Singh gave a farewell feast for his son, then denounced him and expelled him from the family. Several hours later, Sundar realized that his food had been poisoned, and his life was saved only by the help of a nearby Christian community. He was baptized on his 16th birthday.
    Then, in October 1906, he set out from the Christian Leprosy Home at Sabathu where he had been serving. He wore a yellow robe and turban, the traditional garb of a Hindu sadhu, an ascetic devoted to the gods who either begged his way along the roads or sat meditating in some lonely place. The young Sundar Singh had chosen the sadhu’s way, but he desired to be a sadhu of a different sort. “I am not worthy to follow in the steps of my Lord,” he said, “but, like Him, I want no home, no possessions. Like Him I will belong to the road, sharing the suffering of my people, eating with those who will give me shelter, and telling all men of the love of God.”
    He traveled through the Punjab and over the Bannihal Pass into Kashmir then through Muslim Afghanistan into the brigand-infested Northwest Frontier and Baluchistan. His robe gave him little protection against the snow, and his feet were torn by the rough path. Soon the Christian communities of the north referred to him as “the apostle with the bleeding feet.” In his travels he was stoned, arrested, and left to sleep in a wayside hut with a cobra for company. He was also visited by a shepherd who talked with strange intimacy about Jesus and then was gone. He made the first of several trips into Tibet.
    [In 1908 Singh] recognized a basic dilemma of the Christian mission to India. A brahmin had collapsed in the hot, crowded carriage and, at the next station, the Anglo-Indian stationmaster came rushing with a cup of water from the refreshment room. The brahmin — a high-caste Hindu — thrust it away in horror. He needed water, but he could only accept it in his own drinking vessel. When that was brought, he drank and was revived. In the same way, Sundar Singh realized, India would not widely accept the gospel of Jesus offered in Western guise. That, he recognized, was why many listeners had responded to him in his Indian sadhu’s robe.
    He returned to Tibet in 1912, followed by annual trips. Stories from those years are incredible at times, and some contended that these were mystical rather than real happenings. From this trip, he returned with an account of finding a three-hundred-year old Christian hermit in a mountain cave, the Maharishi of Kailas, with whom he spent several weeks in deep fellowship.
    Before age 30, his image was widely known. His talks and personal speech sprang out of his early-morning meditations, especially on the Gospels, and many people said, “He not only looks like Jesus, he talks like Jesus must have talked.” In 1918 he made a long tour of South India and Ceylon, and the following year he was invited to Burma, Malaya, China, and Japan. Travels to Britain were paid for by his father, who had recently converted to Christianity as well. Sundar visited the United States, Australia, and Europe, returning to India in 1922.
    In 1923 he made the last of his regular summer visits to Tibet, returning home exhausted to spend the next few years, in his own home or those of his friends in the Simla hills, meditating, fellowshiping with others, and writing. In 1929, against all his friends’ advice, Sundar determined to make one last journey to Tibet. He was last seen on the 18th of April 1929 setting off for Tibet. In April he reached Kalka, a small town below Simla, “a prematurely aged figure in his yellow robe among pilgrims and holy men” beginning their own treks to one of Hinduism’s holy places some miles away. He was not seen again; his death remains a mystery, but he is believed to have died somewhere in the foothills of the Himalayas in 1929.
    I have decided to follow Jesus
    I have decided to follow Jesus;
    I have decided to follow Jesus;
    I have decided to follow Jesus;
    No turning back, no turning back.
    Though I may wander, I still will follow;
    Though I may wander, I still will follow;
    Though I may wander, I still will follow;
    No turning back, no turning back.
    The world behind me, the cross before me;
    The world behind me, the cross before me;
    The world behind me, the cross before me;
    No turning back, no turning back.
    Though none go with me, still I will follow;
    Though none go with me, still I will follow;
    Though none go with me, still I will follow;
    No turning back, no turning back.
    Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
    Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
    Will you decide now to follow Jesus?
    No turning back, no turning back.
    http://subversiveinfluence.com/2009/05/hymns-of-my-youth-104-i-have-decided-to-follow-jesus/

  8. ivan menezes from India says:

    i love this song and i have taught my children(4), there are so many versions as to who wrote , etc. i was told by a friend that it was written by an Indian princess, who , when she heard the gospel surrendered her life to Christ and later when her father said that she would not get any inheritance from his kingdom , she penned these lines, there are so many different versions that i now feel after reading all the comments posted that i should concentrate more on the song and its meaning than on all the stories surrounding it, i have many a times given the above story whenever i have witnessed to someone about Christ, but hence forth i will refrain as the authorship of the lyrics remains obscure, i ask my LORD TO FORGIVE ME FOR THE BLUNDER DONE IN IGNORANCE, ultimately the song is to GLORIFY HIM,TO HIM BE GLORY FOREVER,then there is this song by John Watts, i read it in a book, who penned ‘joy to the world’ on the second coming of Christ but mistakenly it is sung as a christmas carol(just for your information).love you all,friends and i am glad that your decision to follow Jesus will be rewarded by the KING HIMSELF, and tho none follow, you are not alone cause the FATHER,SON & THE HOLY SPIRIT ARE WITH YOU.As the scriptures say the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,but to the wise in Christ it is the message of salvation to eternal life so never let the cross out of your vision, persecution to a follower of the way is an ornament, a garland around his neck , it is like incense bitter in taste but when burned the aroma is sweet in the nostrils of our LORD, so dear friends boldly and joyfully sing this song , till you reach the CITY OF JOY(NOT CALCUTTA), but the NEW JERUSALEM. SHALLOM.

  9. Terence Tuhwe says:

    I had a seriuos urging to real find out how this song must have come about. i am seriously in love with it. i sing it almost everyday because it reminds me and affirms,assures me of this GREAT decision i made in my life of being a disciple and making more.

  10. Philip says:

    I have decided song originally from Mizoram, India.

  11. daniel engty says:

    Hi I’m a 27 year old musician from the north-eastern part of India (Karbi Anglong in Assam), I’m a Karbi (one of the major indigenous tribe of the region), in 2004 some “Joyful Noise Express” a worship team from California came to our small town “Diphu” for a worship conference, it is where i’ve learned that this wonderful song that i grew up singing to & loved so much has its origin from my own place written by some Garo brothers, never had such a thought crossed my mind i was so happy to have found this connection …describing about our so called tribal region which is still very laid back with very simple people living very simple lives, though by now our literacy rate has increased still are not very close to what we would chose to call modern day progress or development ,the place i belong has bordered Garo hills (Meghalaya) & there are lots of Garo brothers in our region too so we had shared our lives each day since ages, what amazes me most here is that we at this age of internet are still backward & thinking about making a song world famous is what i see even now as not very possible, as a musician from the region myself i see it clear , the point here is with God impossible is nothing , my thinking goes back to those days when that person(who wrote the song) would have thought about writing this song,as God answers prayer with faith how strong the song writer’s faith might have been that had even strongly been reflected in the simple lines he wrote & God has blessed it, so after the song traveled the whole world it came back to its birth place as the people here had always loved this song but never knowing its their own folk melody that they are singing cause they thought since its included in the hymnals that mostly comes from America or Europe has a foreign origin too but now knowing about it everyone’s so touched & thrilled feeling the real presence of His blessings ….even now whenever i tell my friends who didn’t know about its origin are surprised & overwhelmed & i feel so blessed every time i tell them these & i get connected together with friends feeling God’s presence with us Who had always been with us since the beginning of time but it is us who’s always have been blind ……before i conclude i would like to say it to brother Philip that as we grew up listening to each others song in our region the melody of “I have decided to follow Jesus” sounded more like a Garo traditional melody than a Mizo melody which are more melancholic & slower in nature so most probably the songs origin might not be in Mizoram. thank you God be with you all..

  12. halfwit says:

    In my childhood, we used to sing this song in our vernacular. Well I never knew that stories of origin of this World famous song are connected to Our india be it Punjab or Noth East or any other part. Our hearts leaps with joy with such informations. Thanx any way.

  13. ruth says:

    I heard this song for the first time this past Sunday in chrch and I absolutely love it. It is so easy to sing and the words are easy to remember.

  14. angie says:

    WOW….i didn’t know that this cong was composed in india…and it’s true that there are songs we sing espcially those that are old songs (hymns), that we don’t know where it came from…as i read those comments all your comments, my mind go wide!!!…i thought before that india was a not s christian counrty..well now, i know…

  15. Jessica says:

    One of the best songs ever…from all these stories I think we can safely gather that it is from somewhere in India and probably written by someone who counted the cost and paid a price (humanly speaking) for following the Lord. Whenever I get discouraged about people I have known who have made professions of faith that did not turn out to be genuine and eventually they fall away from the faith this song comforts me. Truly, truly there is no friend like Jesus…I have decided to follow Jesus, NO TURNING BACK! Though none go with me, still I will follow, no turning back. I have a friend who has lost many people in her life through death and now those left in her household are turning away from the Lord…please pray that this dear sister would remain strong in the faith and that her loved ones would turn back to the Lord. Thank you.

  16. ROBERT MAJOR says:

    This hymn begs for a bridge/refrain. So I wrote one. I will be glad
    to send the music to anyone who asks.

    Alone and hopeless,
    In desperation, fell on my knees and
    began to pray

    I heard a voice say, “Rise up and follow
    I am the light, I’ll show you the way.”

  17. All that i have learnt from hymns is that; the writers, whiles in a predicament, are inspired by the spirit of GOD to write. Thats what matters-making something useful from the situation says:

    Michael

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