They are everywhere. You have probably seen them along the roadside or at a busy intersection as you drive around.
I am talking about the people with signs pointing you to places that serve food, rent apartments, prepare taxes, are going out of business, or will buy your gold. (I don't know about you but I don't think I would take my gold to one of those stores.)
Sometimes these people are dressed as animals, cartoon characters, the Statue of Liberty, and many other things. Often they are dancing and twirling their signs. Anything to get your attention.
Human billboards have been used for centuries in one form or another. In the early 1800s one common expression was called sandwich boards. Charles Dickens described them as "a piece of human flesh between two slices of paste board." The contemporary sign holders carry it to another level.
Sign holders are known as human directionals in the advertising industry. They are widely used especially in areas that have a lot of traffic. The signs will frequently be shaped like arrows in order to direct traffic to the location being advertised.
According to the Los Angeles Times Eye Shot, a Lake Forest, California company claims to have invented modern sign spinning using arrow-shaped signs. Another California company, AArow Advertising, conducts "boot camps" to train its employees, and has also filed patent applications for a number of its "signature moves".
Demand for human directionals has increased significantly since the introduction of sign-twirling techniques and they appear to be highly effective. For example, The New York Times reported that during one month nearly 8% of the 3,600 people who visited model homes in a housing development in Moreno Valley, California were directed there by human directionals.
I don't know if this method of advertising is really cost effective. However, because of the significant increase in the number and variety of human directionals, I suspect they offer a viable alternative and give flexibility that some higher cost methods cannot.
Whatever you or I think about these sign holders/twirlers, there is a principle that the Church might take note of. If a human being pointing the way increases business traffic, the same might be true for leading people to faith.
Before you write me off as some "crazy person" (although there are probably other reasons why you should), I am not suggesting that Christians- or people of any faith for that matter- should dress up in outrageous costumes or engage in ridiculous dances on the street corner. What I am proposing is what I think Jesus offered when he said, "Let your light shine so that others might see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
The Church does not do "good works" to "show off." Rather it is the result of following the One who "came not to be served but to serve." I think the Church needs to do a better job of telling its stories- not so they will receive praise but to point others to the One who gave his life in exchange for many." (Matthew 20:28)