For Stephen McWhirter, the worship songs he sings as a front man and songwriter for Iron Bell Music are simply a musical retelling of the powerful testimony God has given him after recovering completely from a life of addiction. From cocaine at fifteen to crystal meth at seventeen, McWhirter’s life was heading for an early death before God met him, the son of an evangelist, on a bed at 3:00 a.m. surrounded by the drugs and paraphernalia that had consumed him.
Fortunately, years later, McWhirter is faithful to share God’s redemptive story with anyone who will listen (and even gets emotional when telling it sixteen years later). The band’s hit single “God Who Saves” was born from McWhirter’s powerful story, one that testifies that God’s salvation is at work now as much as ever.
CCM Magazine: Were you and the other guys you’re playing music with at Iron Bell raised in musical households?
Stephen McWhirter: Personally, I took to music early, and I think all of us did. For me, I spent a lot of time singing in church camps growing up because my dad was an evangelist. When I became a teen, I rebelled against all of that and bought a bass guitar because I thought it would be the easiest—only four strings! [Laughs] The first song I ever learned to play on the bass was “Am I Evil?” by Metallica.
CCM: You laugh about the teen rebellion thing, but your story is really centered on that, right?
SW: Yeah, I mentioned my dad was an evangelist. The short story is that the guy I saw in public was different than the one I saw in private. They weren’t the same. I just didn’t want anything to do with it. In my early teens, maybe around twelve or thirteen, I started rebelling by drinking, cigarettes and smoking pot. By the time I was fifteen, I was doing cocaine, large amounts of crack, all of that stuff. By the time I was seventeen until my early twenties, for about five years, I was a crystal meth addict. I was doing lots of meth every day, not just every now and then. I weighed just one-hundred pounds…all of that.
All through that time, I was strongly and viciously against Christianity. I was the guy who would cuss you out if you mentioned Jesus around me. It got so bad where I’d been up for four days straight. I had this thought that I would die from this, but I was okay with that. I couldn’t even imagine quitting drugs, so I just thought that any day, it all could take my life. During this time, someone gave me a book about Jesus called The Case For Christ (buy). I was reading it in the middle of the night after having been up, and it’s a miracle I was even reading it. I can’t remember why I was even okay with it.
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