It was the last portion of a two-day intensive writing session, and Gateway’s worship leaders, along with other prominent songwriters, were on their last creative legs. Nevertheless, Pastors Tyler Bates, Cole Novak, Walker Beach, and Nashville producer Kyle Lee gathered at the studio on a February evening to try to write a song, and none of them expected much to happen.

Earlier that day, Cole was running errands when he got an idea for a song. While in his car, he opened up the Garage Band App in his phone and created a few different beats and melodies. “This writing session was right on the heels of me and my wife’s vision retreat for the year,” Cole says. “And we really felt like this year, the Lord wants us to be better at stewarding our creativity, which meant stopping whatever I was doing and getting that song idea out.” So when the group got together for the session and started talking about ideas, Cole showed them his phone creations, and one of them stuck. Everyone jumped in with renewed excitement.

These writing groups are designed purposely, so newer songwriters are placed in groups with more seasoned songwriters, and in the case of this session, it was a perfect blend. “When some of us got a little too poetic and ethereal with the lyrics, Walker helped steer us in a direction that would really resonate with the congregation,” Tyler says. “His input is why the song works.” With Walker’s guidance and Kyle’s creative genius, they worked on creating lyrics that were more action-oriented instead of passive, writing lyrics like “Our hearts, our hands are reaching out to see you move again” and picturing an Auditorium filled with hands reaching toward heaven in expectant worship.

Time for the writing session had run out when Kyle suggested they work on a bridge. Most of his Nashville group had already gone back to the hotel, but they decided to dig in and finish a bridge. “We were all tired and spent, but we knew we were onto something,” Walker says. “We all knew it wasn’t time to give up yet, and that feeling of pressing in comes through in the song.”

Within another half hour, the song was complete, and even though some of the group wasn’t sure about the bridge at first, it quickly became everyone’s favorite part, bringing together the entire song into one main idea: what happens when you invite God to move. “The first time I sang this song at a weekend service, I remember getting to the bridge, looking out at the congregation, and seeing this guy way in the back, underneath the balcony at the Southlake Campus who was jumping up and down while he sang,” Cole says. “That hunger and excitement for God to move is what we were going for.”


“Open the Heavens” will be on GATEWAY’s Monuments album, available to preorder on iTunes on August 4, 2017.