The TELL Worldwide Network

Dan Laitinen (Austin, Texas, USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Pastor Dan Laitinen is a TELL Network missionary who teaches the Bible and equips people to share the gospel using online tools. Dan, his wife Hannah and four children live in Austin, Texas, United States.

In 2018 WELS World Mission's Multi-Language Productions had a vision to reach the world with the Gospel in a new way. Their vision was to equip people with the truth of God's word using digital resources in English. Like the Latin America mission field's Spanish Academia Cristo, TELL would use English to reach people through social me-dia, self-led Bible lessons and live video classrooms.

Three years later, God has blessed that vision. The TELL Network has 1.2 million fol-lowers and likes on its main Facebook page. Across the globe there are 7,000 active us-ers doing self-led Bible lessons on the TELL app and website. Currently there is one full-time TELL missionary who meets several times a week with students from Africa, India and Philippines.

One student, Samuel, is from Guinea, Africa. He is a teacher with a wife and children. "My greatest desire is to be well-equipped for mission work," says Samuel, "I won't miss this opportunity by God's grace."

Like thousands of others, Samuel found TELL on Facebook. TELL's Facebook team posts daily Bible passages and short devotional videos by national pastors called #TELLtalks. The team answers questions online and invites people to start free Bible training on the TELL app or website.

Samuel downloaded the TELL app and within seconds began the first self-learning course. He completed three self-learning courses: Spiritual Healing, Truth Brings Peace and Introduction to the Bible. Each course has nine lessons that include a Bible reading, teaching video and quiz.

When Samuel completed the self-learning courses ("TELL Tier 1") he received his first certificate. Then a TELL missionary contacted Samuel. He congratulated him and invited Samuel to join him in the live online classes ("TELL Tier 2").

Today Samuel is meeting twice a week in a video classroom with a TELL instructor and other students. Students go in-depth learning about the work of Jesus, Old and New Testament history and Law and Gospel. Each course takes about a month. There are eleven courses in TELL tier 2.

TELL tier 3 are live courses too. They focus on how to share the Gospel in your com-munity: gathering, teaching and discipling. God-willing some day the TELL instructor along with a local missionary will visit Samuel to grow the relationship and support Samuel as he starts a small group.

When Samuel began TELL he had been praying for just that: an opportunity to share the Gospel. Since then God opened a door! A friend gave Samuel air-time on the local radio station. Every Sunday evening Samuel takes the Bible lesson he has learned with TELL and reuses them on-air to an audience of up to half-a-million. Many of them have never heard the Gospel.

By God's grace Samuel has found a place where he receives real Gospel training right from God's word. "I used to believe in a Gospel that was preaching prosperity and mira-cles mostly," Samuel says, "But I discovered this misleads believers. It focuses on earth-ly things and makes us forget heavenly things. Now I'm mission-minded."

Explore further by clicking on these TELL Links:


TELL App (Android)

TELL App (iOS): NA (in development)

Facebook (Main)

Facebook (Africa)

Facebook (Europe)

Facebook (South Asia)

Facebook (Southeast Asia)


Spiritual Healing (self-learning video series)

Truth Brings Peace (self-learning video series)

Introduction to the Bible (self-learning video series)

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Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2020-10-23 4:20:03am
Dan, your work is extremely important and it is a pleasure to read of it. You reference Academia Cristo which has been working in Latin America as a model for TELL, which it seems (at first, at least) is working in Africa. What is it from Academia Cristo that you are adopting pretty much straightforwardly, and what have you had to adjust to take social and cultural differences into account?
Dan Laitinen (TELL Network) 2020-11-02 12:32:26am
Good question. Yes, we've adopted most aspects of TELL directly from the good work of Academia Cristo, our sister ministry. Some similarities are building a strong Facebook presence; investing time, energy and money towards target audience on social media; self-learning app; same live course material (different language). The TELL Missionary even participates in weekly Academia Cristo missionary meetings. However, there are some differences between the two ministries: TELL has found success outside of the self-learning app for people in poor internet areas who cannot download and maintain large apps. They only use WhatsApp. So we forward the self-learning videos directly to them to watch. When finished the TELL missionary sends them review questions like a text message for them to reply. Another interesting area TELL is trying is using Facebook groups for small group live Bible study. In groups there's a setting to make it a "learning group" where the administrator can post class videos, created units and quizzes as well as post announcements. We're discovering that some areas outside of Latin America and the U.S. have preferences besides Facebook and WhatsApp. Telegram seems to be the preferred app in Ethiopia. Instagram is growing in popularity among young people in Africa. By listening to our audience we're starting to discover avenues through new mediums we hadn't thought of before.
James Aderman 2020-11-01 11:28:23pm
TELL demonstrates ways online communication can be effectively harnessed for Great Commission purposes. Thanks!
Dan Laitinen (TELL Network) 2020-11-02 12:36:00am
Hello James. Amen to that. God gives his church the right gifts at the right time. Today we might be righteously jealous of the first century Christians who were gifted with miraculous powers and signs. But I imagine if they saw what gospel gifts we had today they'd be green with envy. Imagine Paul saying "It took us TWENTY YEARS to get the Gospel from Jerusalem to Rome. It takes them TEN SECONDS to share the gospel across the globe!" Blessed to be on God's mission.
Jeff Lemke (Bethany Lutheran College and MLC) 2020-11-03 10:43:17pm
Pastor Laitinen, What a wonderfully constructed effort. I really appreciate the branding that you utilize to make the Word accessible in a friendly manner. All of the channels also show an understanding of your audience and the nuances. I'm sure the development of those nuances is a study within itself. Great stuff!
Dan Laitinen (TELL Network) 2020-11-12 1:04:06am
Yes Jeff. Learning the channels, challenges and how people interact online across the world is a growing experience in itself. Thanks for the encouragement!
Katlyn Schwab (Martin Luther College) 2020-11-04 3:24:24pm
Pastor Laitinen,

Throughout highschool, I had the wonderful privilege to attend short week-long mission trips across the United States. On those trips, my classmates and I would spend hours canvassing just to see about two or three more children register for our soccer and science camps. After reading your article, my mind immediately shifted to how difficult it was to canvas but then also how difficult it must have been for those who didn’t have any forms of technology. Your comment regarding Paul’s experience sharing the gospel helped me to truly be thankful for the outstanding technology we have to aid us in ministry. Thank you for bringing that to my attention.

TELL provides wonderful opportunities to share the gospel with people across the globe. This is something that was not possible a hundred years ago. Now, we have the ability to reach people thousands of miles away with one click. Amidst this global crisis of COVID 19, technology such as TELL could offer wonderful ways for congregations to gather together for Bible study even if we cannot physically meet. Do you have any thoughts about developed congregations using such technology to reach its members during this challenging time?

I appreciate all of your hard work through the use of TELL, and for sharing about the program.
Dan Laitinen (TELL Network) 2020-11-12 1:06:27am
Hi Katlyn. I remember going on plenty of door-to-door canvassing trips too! I wouldn’t exchange the experience either. There’s a lot more in common about online ministry and boots on the ground ministry. Both need strategy and follow-up. Maybe even more so digitally because today so many people interact at such high a rate that it’s easy to forget who and what you’re doing online. Do I have any thoughts about local congregations using technology to reach members (and prospects)? Yes. More and more people are gathering information about businesses, restaurants and yes, even churches, online. Our churches need to think of their online presence as the front door. Whether we like it or not people will form an impression of our local churches within seconds online. That doesn’t mean we need to be super cutting-edge. Rather, we should start thinking of online digital media or technology as a ministry in and of itself. Probably a full-time position. The Apostle Paul leveraged social media (“the letter”) that was delivered and shared and re-shared by churches. We too have a gift to share and re-share the Word for years to come.
Makayla Kaiser (Martin Luther College) 2020-11-05 12:32:52am
Pastor Laitinen,

I’ve grown up with both parents being teachers, so I’ve been constantly surrounded by God’s Word and different ways to hear or share it. After reading your article, it really made me realize how lucky I am to have such easy access to God’s Word and all of His promises. Thank you for helping me remember how lucky I am and how important it is for me to go and share God’s Word in any way I can. I love how this can be used worldwide to reach more people instead of just staying close to home.

TELL sounds like such an amazing resource that people can use to hear more about the Gospel. It makes me wonder why I haven’t heard more about it outside of this article. This is such an amazing tool for people who can’t regularly go to Bible studies or church. In our world today with COVID, this would have been a great thing for people to know about and hear more information about. Are there ways you are trying to tell more people about TELL? Are you guys advertising about TELL somewhere? Just wondering because it sounds like an amazing resource; I’ve just never heard of it until now.

Thank you for everything you are doing with TELL and for writing this article so more people can learn about this resource.
Dan Laitinen (TELL Network) 2020-11-12 1:07:47am
Hi Makayla. TELL is rather new so maybe people haven’t heard about it so much. There’s so much going on ministry-wise in church circles it’s easy to miss. When invited to preach at local congregations in my home state of Texas they often want me to present on TELL in Bible class. It really is a neat way to share what’s happening in TELL’s corner of ministry. Most people are very encouraged and so am I. In the future I bet WELS communication will publish more about TELL especially as we see more students come through and it grows and expands. For now you can follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up with what’s happening. Thanks for your interest!
Elijah Dorn (Martin Luther College) 2020-11-05 9:01:24am
Pastor Laitinen,

Reading your article gets me very excited to see how well our ministry’s missionaries are shifting over to technology-based outreach. The incoming generations are becoming more and more dependent on the internet to get them through their daily tasks. What better way to reach new hearts than through a devotional training app!

The idea of creating a mobile app that teaches an individual how to give a proper devotion is brilliant. I have never heard of the TELL app, but I am glad that I found your article. As word of this useful app spreads, have you considered making paper-copied books of individual devotion series? I know that the main idea of TELL is to reach people online, but if your devotions and teaching lessons increase in popularity, would you make paper books to reach those who don’t have internet access?

I think that what you are doing with this app has a bright future. Thank you so much for all the time and effort you’ve put into TELL. God’s blessings as your ministry continues to grow.
Dan Laitinen (TELL Network) 2020-11-12 1:08:48am
Hi Elijah. Thanks for your comment. We often get asked that question: “Do you have/can you send hard copies?” The simple answer is no. In the past Multi-Language Publications has attempted to send physical resources to places around the world. However, the mail system outside the U.S. is too uncertain. Often large amounts of materials are lost or never received. The next best thing is PDF’s. They are relatively easy to send and receive. They can be opened on virtually any device, even in developing countries. When a TELL student completes a course, they receive the teacher resources in PDF so they too can share with others.
Aaron Bode (Martin Luther College) 2020-11-05 5:48:38pm
Pastor Laitinen,
I grew up in a household where we went to church and bible class every Sunday, at the same time without fail. I went to a Lutheran grade school and high school and I’m now at Martin Luther College. God’s word became a staple in my life at a young age and I sometimes take it for granted. I should be thankful that I was blessed to be a part of a family that is spiritually strong. Sometimes I forget that others are not in the same situation as me. That means we have to get the word of God out there because there are so many people out there that are eager to hear the word of God.

TELL sounds like an amazing way to reach new people that need to hear God’s word. We really need to get this out to more people especially in this scary time of Covid. People need the reassurance that God offers in his word. What do you think the best possible way is to get people to hear about TELL so they can become a part of it?

Thank you for doing such great work and serving your Lord.
Dan Laitinen (TELL Network) 2020-11-12 1:09:43am
Hi Aaron. TELL is pretty new so not a lot of people have heard about it in church circles. We’re noticing that TELL has a growing reputation in certain regions of the world where some people are spreading the news about it by word of mouth. For instance in Uganda, Africa, we have a student who is a pastor who found TELL and now is spreading the news to other men and women in his home country. Now they’ve begun learning with us. We’ve even connected TELL students who live in the same country to one another. People are still learning about us primarily on Facebook but we’ve seen tremendous growth by good old fashioned word of mouth. We appreciate you telling others about us too.
Jiajun Ji (Martin Luther College) 2020-11-06 2:38:00am
Pastor Laitinen

Both my grandparents and mother are Christians, especially my grandfather used to be a pastor, so I have always been surrounded by God’s word and different ways of listening or sharing. After reading your article, I did make me realize how lucky it is to be able to touch God's Word and all his promises so easily. Thank you for letting me know how lucky I am and how important it is to me to share the word of God in every possible way. I like that I can share this article with my friends so that we can attract more people, not just stay at home in a daze.

TELL seems to be a great resource that people can use to learn more about the gospel about God. Relatively, this also makes me wonder why I don't have more channels to understand it outside of this article. For people, this is an amazing tool that prevents them from regularly participating in Bible studies or churches. In today's world of COVID, this is a great thing for people to learn and hear more information from TELL. And I'm curious and curious because I haven't heard of this before. Did you encounter any difficulties when you first started building TELL? Do you only promote TELL in a certain place?

Thank you for sharing TELL with us by writing this article.
Dan Laitinen (TELL Network) 2020-11-12 1:10:47am
Since TELL is a newer ministry many people may not have heard of it yet. Since TELL is a branch of WELS world missions we promote TELL primarily outside the United States. That means every dollar we spend in boosting and promoting content is spent in Europe, Africa, East Asian and South East Asia. Each of those regions has a separate Facebook page that cannot be viewed in the U.S. We don’t spend any money currently within the U.S., even on our “main” page (1.2 million followers/likes). That’s partly why you may not see or hear a lot about TELL in the U.S. I predict you will hear more about TELL as we gain traction and students. Keep your eyes open for the world mission updates from WELS communication. Thanks again for the comment.