Why we sing “I have decided to follow Jesus”

from The Cripplegate by Jesse Johnson

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I have decided to follow Jesus” is a polarizing hymn. Made popular by the Billy Graham crusades, it is inseparable from the concept of altar calls and emotional pleading. For some, it stands as a sort of Arminian anthem—a testimony to the power of human volition and an example of all that is wrong with modern Christian lyrics. For others, it is a song celebrating the simplicity of conversion–simple and sincere.

But when you know the story behind the song, you realize that it is not a statement about free will, nor about the ease of placing your faith in Christ. It actually stands as a monument to the international nature of the gospel, as well as a radical call to suffer and die with Jesus.

The late 1800’s saw an evangelistic explosion in India. Entire provinces formally closed to the gospel were swept up a missionary movement perhaps unparalleled in history. Wales in particular sent hundreds of missionaries to Northern India, and they were joined by Indian evangelists, as well as missionaries from England, Australia, and the United States. This movement was remarkable for two reasons; first, it was led mostly by Indians themselves, and those men became national figures.  Second, this missionary endeavor was focused on Northern India, which was firmly in the grips of the most oppressive forms of Hinduism. It was a place where the caste system was entrenched, and where headhunters ruled.   

These provinces often prided themselves on the hostile reaction they gave foreigners. Dozens and dozens of these missionaries were martyred, but despite the opposition and violence (or perhaps because of it) the gospel made inroads into this previously off-limits area.

Read on at: http://thecripplegate.com/why-we-sing-i-have-decided-to-follow-jesus/

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