The Question


Last month I did a gig with Toby Mac.  A pretty cool honor to share the stage with Toby- he’s written so many great songs and has survived in a very tough business for a couple decades now.

Before the show, I was sitting in the auditorium checking emails on my phone.  I looked up to see a young guy approaching me.  His volunteer backstage pass was swinging from his neck and his eyes were alive with anticipation of the show.  He had been hanging out with Toby’s band all day and was pretty pumped up.  He made a beeline to me and in an excited voice said, “Hey are you Danny Oertli?”

“Yep, that’s me.”

“Oh, sorry, but I’ve never heard of you before.”

“Hey, no big deal.  I like to fly under the radar.”

“So, how long have you been doing this?”

“Over 20 years now I guess.  A long time and a lot of miles!”

“Wow!  So, let me ask you a question:  in 20 years, have you been able to find any level of success at all?”

The question caught me off guard and my mind reeled as I thought of possible answers.  Sadly, my first reaction was pride- well, I’ve played on this stage and that, I’ve made some records, etc. . .But, before that answer made it’s way from my brain to my lips, that silliness faded and I became somewhat reflective.

After what must have seemed like a very dramatic pregnant pause, the words fell out of my mouth.

“Well, I guess for 20 years I’ve paid my mortgage and provided food for my family.  I’ve also been able to spend a lot of time with my wife and kids and we’ve been able to travel quite a bit together.  Most of all, I think I’m doing what God made me to do and I love it.  I guess that’s how I would define success.”

The young man looked at me for a few seconds, most likely waiting for another answer that would include record sales, recognition, maybe a few artist names he would know.  But, I had taken his innocent question and turned it into a spiritual line of demarkation, an appraisal of my years in ministry.

And, in that moment, I was reminded. . .

I really, really love what I do.


3 Responses to “The Question”

  1. Jerry Padron says:


    The Lord gave you a great answer for that young man! I hope he wrestles with the answer to the extent that he understands that success doesn’t always mean the highest paying job, the most cars, a big house, making up the corporate ladder, or getting airplay and gold records, etc. Finding our identity in Christ is a measure of success that many believers struggle to achieve.
    As a musician myself (bass gtr), I’ve played several years in the world and not getting anywhere. So I left the music scene for 7years. I then re-committed my life to Christ, and through a friend found a bible-teaching church where I’ve been playing with the worship team there for the last 9 years. The Lord not only gave me a church family, but a family of my own and plenty of opportunities for growth.(Halleluiah)
    So I never reached the level of success that most musicians hope for, but I have been blessed to have played on some recording projects and help others out in that way. This is where the Lord has me this season and that good with me.
    As you know, God has us where He wants us ans where He can use us. That young man needed to hear the answer you gave him, as you gave the glory to God. It’s not about us…it’s ALL about Him!
    Even Toby Mac would have said the same.
    Thank you for the opportunity to share. I’m gonna try to make it to PK in SD.



  2. admin says:

    Thanks Jerry! I appreciate your words. Hopefully, I’ll see you in SD!

  3. Ken Hollingsworth says:

    I just heard an interview of Coach John Wooten done in 2005 on Dr. Dobson. He would have heartily approved of your answer. He defines “success” as doing something to the best of your ability (my summary of his answer).
    As I Cor 10:31 says “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” I didn’t know of you either until I signed up for the Promise Keepers event in Garland, TX. Looking forward to hearing you.