Cracking Through a Heart of Iron
Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain got more than he bargained for when he attended one WCA Member Church.
The musicians leave the backstage area and head toward the stage door, a nervous energy flowing through each of them. The houselights dim in the auditorium. The musicians prop themselves into their pre-assigned spots on the stage. The guitar players plug in their instruments while Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain gets behind his drum set and scans the audience like he has a thousand times before.
But this is no Iron Maiden concert. And this is not the Nicko McBrain of old. Instead of an overflowing arena of 25,000 heavy metal fans, the venue this day is a church of nearly 1,000 worshipers. Instead of perennial Iron Maiden favorite “Wrathchild,” this new band cranks out “Shout to the Lord.” Nicko tries to stay focused on the song and not the tears that are welling up in his eyes as he reflects on the unlikely road he has traveled that has brought him to this place.
A Rise to Fame
Nicko McBrain was born in Hackney, East London, England. He received his first drum set when he was 12 years old and knew right away that his life would never be the same again. He was exposed to the Bible through Sunday School and the mandatory religious instruction at school, but “never really took it seriously.” By the time he had left school at the age of 15, Nicko was already a veteran of many pub-groups that performed locally. His reputation as a solid drummer earned him a role as a sought-after studio session drummer.
Meanwhile, in another part of England, a heavy metal band called Iron Maiden was climbing the charts at an astonishing rate. Their loyal following knew no bounds as the band quickly made a name for themselves in the U.S., Asia, and Europe. In 1982, their newest album catapulted them front and center onto the heavy metal stage and their album sales were now being counted by the millions.
Nicko’s band at the time had the opportunity to play with Iron Maiden at a festival in Belgium. The members of Iron Maiden had taken note of Nicko’s powerful presence and precision playing. When their drummer decided to leave the band at the pinnacle of their success, Nicko was the first one they called.
It didn’t take Nicko long to acclimate himself to his new life style. Old rusted cars were replaced by limousines. Musky hotel rooms were replaced with lavish suites. Stale beer was replaced by top shelf alcohol. Fame and fortune were his for the taking.
Iron Maiden knew no slowing down. Each subsequent album sold more than the one before and their fan base continued to grow worldwide. Several years into their nearly non-stop touring schedule, Nicko met and fell in love with Rebecca, whom he would marry shortly thereafter. Through Iron Maiden’s extensive touring, Nicko had also fallen in love with Florida and the couple decided to make their home in Boca Raton, where they settled down and had their first son, Justin.
Nicko continued his touring with Iron Maiden, while Rebecca stayed home with their son. She quickly became friends with a neighbor who frequently shared the gospel with her and eventually led her into a personal relationship with Christ. It didn’t take Nicko long to notice.
“I’d come home and my wife was studying her Bible and preparing for her next Bible study,” he recalls. “Eventually she asked the question: ‘Would you come to church with me?’” Nicko reluctantly agreed. His first church experience after his wife’s conversion was disappointing. The service he attended dealt exclusively with the subject of money. “I remember thinking, ‘Forget it! That’s not why I’m here. I’m never coming back here again.’”
But Rebecca didn’t give up … and neither did God. Rebecca suggested they try a different church. She had heard of Spanish River Community Church, and decided to give that church a try. Nicko was “blown away” at the very first service. The music was contemporary and similar to what he had known. A drama team performed a sketch that was related to the message. And the sermon dealt with real-life issues that he could relate to.
Nicko continued to attend Spanish River during breaks in his tour schedule. One morning he was lying in bed physically depleted from a rigorous tour. Rebecca woke him up and asked him if he was going to go to church with her. “I just lay in bed, completely exhausted, and said, ‘No, go on without me,’” he recalls. Rebecca then retorted, “If you don’t want to go for yourself, then at least go for your son.” That was it. Nicko couldn’t go back to sleep and prepared himself for church, and — unknown to him — an appointment with God.
“I can’t remember what it was,” he says, “but right in the middle of one of the songs, I starting crying my eyes out. I just stood there saying, ‘What’s the matter with me?’” Pastor David Nicholas asked everyone in the congregation to stand for the closing prayer, and Nicko couldn’t maintain his balance. “I just sat there thinking, ‘I didn’t drink last night … why can’t I stand?’” Nicko believes the hand of the Holy Spirit was on him in a mighty way. “If you’d like to know Christ in a personal way,” Pastor Nicholas said, “then you need to open your heart and ask Him to come in, right where you are.” Nicko started crying again. All the years of running away and of living life on his own terms came to a collision point as Nicko came face to face with the One he was created to know. He quietly asked Jesus Christ to come into his heart and redirect his eternity.
A New Chapter
Nicko’s insatiable desire for Jesus started immediately. “I knew I had to read the Bible,” he recalls. “I borrowed my wife’s and read straight through the first four books of the New Testament. I had this love affair with Jesus going on in my heart.” Nicko eventually got to know some others at the church, including David Nicholas, with whom Nicko still maintains a very close mentoring relationship.
Nicko knew that his life had come full circle when he was asked if he’d like to play with the church’s worship band. After cautiously agreeing, he was commissioned at a prayer service before the very first service and walked out onto the church stage for the first time. “I was extremely nervous,” he recalls. “I’d played in front of a quarter million people with no problem, but the thought of playing in front of 800-1,000 people that morning was frightening. I sat behind the drums and said to God, ‘Thank you for the talent you’ve given me to perform for You.’”
Shortly after giving his life to Christ, Nicko had to make the agonizing decision of whether he should go out for another tour with Iron Maiden. After lots of prayer, he felt God’s affirmation that it was the right thing to do, though he realized that he needed more time to develop his relationship with God.
“I hadn’t really had the opportunity to ‘dig in,’” he says. “Because I’ve been away so often, it’s hard. I go away for two months, come home for a week, go out for another six … it’s tough.” Which is why Nicko is excited about having a year off in 2001. He feels this time will give him the opportunity to really listen to God and try to discern His calling.
“I know in my heart I will have time now to dig deeper, because I know that there’s a greater calling on my life. I can take this time now and listen for further instructions.”
Among the options he is weighing is the possibility of enrolling in some seminary classes at Spanish River. “Without this church and without this relationship with God, I don’t know where I’d be right now. I just know that I want to be able to use my life for God. If he wants me to do another album, fine. If not, then that’s fine too.” What Nicko does know, however, is that God is already using him to affect other people’s lives.
A few months ago Nicko was asked to share his testimony at a church-sponsored coffeehouse. “The way the Holy Spirit touched that room that night was immense. I’ve never felt that way before, or since,” he says. “There was one young man who came because he heard I was going to be there. He was an Iron Maiden fan. After I shared my testimony, he went into the parking lot and just cried in his car. Then he asked Jesus to come into his life.”
Nicko pauses in telling this story. The glint in his eye gives away his emotions. “People always wonder what they’ll say when they stand before God,” he says slowly and emotionally. “I think I’ll say, ‘I love you. I really do. And I know that I brought at least one other person to come to know You.’”
Iron Maiden’s seventh album, Somewhere in Time, contains a song called “Heaven Can Wait.” But for one man who had a rendezvous with destiny in a church in Boca Raton, Florida, heaven has already begun.
This article was taken from the following site :