So, you want to be a speaker who moves people? who changes people? who makes a difference?

I appreciate speakers who move me. And I’ve noticed they exemplify certain characteristics that make them inspiring, memorable, and life-changing.

They’re not merely entertaining, as I explained in my last post. They’re significant.

What makes them so? First, they have a personal, remarkable story to tell. I think of Ron who spends his free time helping families stricken with suicide—because his son took his own life. And Mandy who pursues a singing career, even though she lost her hearing. And Justin who organizes skid row makeovers for homeless moms on Mother’s Day.

Personal stories move me. They’re authentic, meaningful and meaty.

If you wish to move people, deliver personal, remarkable stories. Now, I must qualify, when I say personal, remarkable stories I don’t mean your typical sermon illustrations. You know what I mean: “Last week I saw the neighbor boy pick up a kitten by the tail. Isn’t that just like how God gets our attention?” Save me.

Stories that move people are significant, real and personal. But when you’re expected to speak often, how do you do that? You may have one or two of those great stories from your past. But you probably don’t have 52 remarkable, personal stories per year.

Let me offer a couple of suggestions.

Most preachers spend 20 hours or more per week preparing their sermons. They’re typically holed up in a book-festooned office poring over commentaries, the internet, and other people’s writings. They emerge from solitary confinement at the end of the week with a 30-minute script of thoughts, concepts, Bible readings, kitten illustrations, and stories gleaned from others.

How about this? Suggestion #1. Take half of that prep time and engage in something that can produce your own significant story. If you’re preparing to speak on Matthew 25, go spend a day visiting prisoners. Then on Sunday tell us your jailhouse story. If you’re preparing a talk on God’s free gift of grace, go downtown and try some reverse panhandling. Hand out free dollars and note people’s reactions. Then come and tell us your story. Do something significant, then tell.

Suggestion #2. Though you may run out of personal, remarkable stories, you have a bountiful supply all around you. Let the people whom God has placed around you share their stories on your stage. Lend them the microphone. Live or on video. Recently my pastor handed over his sermon time to the videotaped spiritual journey of a man in our church. It was indelible.

Want to make a difference? Do you want to truly help people grow closer to the Lord? Incorporate powerful, personal, remarkable stories.

In my next post, I’ll offer additional suggestions on how to deliver your message in a way that sticks.