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Phill Butler Memorial

With hearts full of sorrow, yet full of confidence in the hope and joy of eternal life, we announce the passing of Phill Butler into the loving arms of Jesus on April 2nd, Palm Sunday.

At the age of 86, Phill passed away peacefully at home in Pasadena, CA, concluding the last chapter of a great adventure in his earthly life, and beginning the first chapter of an even greater adventure in the life to come.

Phill was married to Jeanne for 25 years until her passing in 1983 and to Sybil for 23 years until her passing in 2008. Phill is survived by 1 sister, Miriam Conrad, 2 children, Kärin Butler Primuth and Shelley Dianne Butler, and three grandchildren.

He was a cherished friend, mentor, and advisor to countless mission leaders over decades of international ministry and will be missed by many around the world.

Friends are welcome to post their remembrances and photos on Phill’s memorial site.

View Phill’s Celebration of Life service here.

Passion for Partnership

Phill was a pioneer in the mission partnering movement and a visionary ministry entrepreneur who launched and led three world-changing ministries over the course of 50 years – InterCristo, InterDev, and VisionSynergy. 

Phill was passionate about seeing God’s people work together in cooperation instead of each group doing their own thing. Phill’s writing, speaking, and training inspired thousands of ministry leaders across the globe to engage collaboratively with others beyond the boundaries of their own organizations, denominations, traditions, cultures, and individualistic or self-centered ways of thinking.

Well Connected

His book, Well Connected, was published in 11 languages and read by tens of thousands of ministry leaders, many of whom called it their “handbook” for facilitating collaborative work that accelerated the Great Commission around the world. Over the years, thousands of churches and other ministries in every part of the world responded to God’s call to collaboration – forming partnerships, alliances, and networks, and working together toward commonly shared visions in order to accomplish far more than they ever could alone.

Phill’s influence and impact was expansive, though many may not know it, because so much of his work and the work of his ministry colleagues was behind the scenes.

Phill often shared, and was inspired by, the stories of mission workers in the past who had endured great difficulty and sowed countless seeds of the Gospel without ever seeing the fruit of their work in their own lifetimes. He frequently commented that he felt blessed to see the fruit of mission partnerships in his own lifetime, beginning with only a handful of inter-organizational field partnerships in the 1980’s to hundreds of initiatives today empowered by God’s Spirit, working together as the Body of Christ across every area of ministry and mission, and seeing breakthroughs for the Gospel in many of the most challenging mission fields in the world.

Lasting Legacy

Phill was born into a family of faith that cultivated in him a love for the Scriptures, a commitment to the Great Commission, an appreciation for the cultural background and viewpoints of others, and a perspective that looked beyond the ordinary.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s Phill worked as a journalist, international news correspondent, and producer of Christian radio.

In those early days, he developed a more profound awareness of the influence of media in people’s lives and a lifelong exploration into the ways God speaks to, and through, people to encourage, motivate, and guide. He launched and led multiple media training programs for Christian ministry leaders around the world.

In the 1960’s and 1970’s, through his ongoing work with numerous ministry organizations, Phill began to see significant communication gaps.

One of the most significant gaps these ministries faced was recruiting and placing skilled individuals into international ministry work. Seeing these challenges, Phill felt called by God to launch and lead InterCristo which provided countless people with on-ramps to short-term and long-term international service using their professional skills.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, as his international work continued (especially among the unreached peoples and places of the world), Phill saw a persistent lack of practical cooperation in ministry and mission.

There were many places, for example, where there was significant response to the Gospel through media outreach, but almost no on-the-ground follow up. The duplication of ministry efforts among ministries without an awareness of what other groups were doing seemed to be a constant hindrance to the progress of the Gospel. This realization eventually led to the launch and development of InterDev with a focus on equipping and facilitating field partnerships among mission organizations.

In the 2000’s as the mission partnering movement continued to grow, Phill launched VisionSynergy with a focus on building global networks to grapple with some of the biggest challenges in world missions.

Building on the work of InterDev and leveraging principles learned over decades, Phill and his colleagues would go on to advise, assist, and facilitate the launch of numerous networks involving thousands of ministries engaged in countless collaborative projects. Eventually, VisionSynergy would focus nearly all its efforts on coaching and equipping the next generation of Majority World leaders to facilitate collaborative efforts for the least reached peoples and places of the world.

Phill was a consummate networker and would often refer to long lists of friends, colleagues, and mentors over the years who had influenced and supported him along the way. He was convinced that Christians are called to love and work together. He believed in sharing credit and always giving the glory to God.

While in the very early days, Phill may have sometimes felt like one of the few “lone voices” crying out for more practical cooperation in international ministry and mission, thanks to God, so much has changed since then. While collaboration may have been the occasional experience of a few ministries years ago, collaboration has since become a core part of the vision and values for thousands of ministries today.

We are grateful for Phill’s faithful stewardship of that vision, and for his lasting legacy in the worldwide Christian movement.

“You are blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.”
Matthew 5:9

Friends are welcome to post their remembrances and photos on Phill’s memorial site.


“That they might be one as we are one.
Then the world will know you sent me.”
John 17:22-23

If you were influenced by Phill’s passion for unity in the Body of Christ and his commitment to seeing the Gospel advance to the least reached peoples of the world, please consider a gift to the Phill Butler Kingdom Collaboration Fund.

VisionSynergy exists to continue Phill’s legacy of catalyzing Kingdom collaboration by equipping leaders to facilitate mission networks aiming to reach the unreached for Christ. Phill’s surviving family requests donations to VisionSynergy to further Phill’s life work in lieu of flowers or other gifts to the family.

When Phill’s wife Sybil passed away in 2008, a similar memorial fund was established toward the goal of equipping the next generation of mission network leaders. Sybil had traveled thousands of miles around the world with Phill to many partnership meetings and seen firsthand the impact of ministry collaboration. Gifts to her memorial fund helped accelerate the coaching and training work of VisionSynergy in significant ways.

Likewise, gifts to the Kingdom Collaboration Fund will be used to steward Phill’s legacy by expanding collaboration training and coaching to more leaders in new regions.

Checks can be made out to “VisionSynergy” and mailed to:

113 Cherry Street #38307
Seattle WA 98104 USA


The Phill Butler Legacy Circle is made up of generous donors who have included VisionSynergy in their will or estate plan. 

Many years before Phill’s passing, he wrote VisionSynergy into his own will and estate plan. He and his family are grateful for the outpouring of support from many people during his protracted battle with cancer in the past couple of years.

When people think of stewardship, they often think of tithing or making wise use of their resources. But stewardship also includes planning for the distribution of your estate. Including a charitable bequest (cash, securities, real estate or other assets) in your will is a simple and tangible way to make a lasting gift to VisionSynergy while leaving a legacy for you and your family.

There are several ways to structure a bequest by indicating: 

  • A specific dollar amount 
  • A percentage of your estate 
  • A specific piece of real estate 
  • A specific piece of personal property 

To honor Phill through the Phill Butler Legacy Circle contact Kärin Butler Primuth, VisionSynergy CEO, at [email protected]. For more information on leaving a legacy, download our brochure here.


Two decades ago, we gathered in London to salute what we thought of as Phill’s lifelong work and to offer congratulations upon the announcement of his retirement. Here are some of the thoughts in our minds then – how little did we know then, there was so much more to come.

Few people in the second half of the 20th twentieth century and perhaps none yet in the 21st have been privileged as Phill in witnessing the global consequences of their stewardship of the Vision God has given them. His passion for the Gospel, expressed through wisdom, knowledge and understanding; drawing servants of God together across boundaries of geography, language and tradition has been globally catalytic; a tiny presence with massive effect.

How might all this be summed up? The most accurate word is a much used one: here is a life that is Holy – set apart for God – a channel of blessing among peoples, across cultures and continents, sometimes for the first time in recorded history. The work of Phill and his partners, collaborators and successors has seen the rise and spread of the Gospel in ways that a generation ago few would have dared believe possible.

Sir Christopher Wren, architect of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, refused a statue. Instead there is a plaque at the centre of the transept which reads: “Let he who seeks a memorial, look around.” We should do the same.

Julian & Brenda Dinsell, England

Phill – brother you were one of the first people I spoke with after my appointment to lead Lausanne in March, 2013. In that 1-2 hours together with you I learned such incredibly helpful and strategic lessons. It was like a master class for the new CEO! I still have the pages of notes that I took.

One of the things you helped me understand was the strategic value of Lausanne than was unlike any other group. And you challenged me to “dream dreams!” And I just want you to know that we have done so thanks to you! We are dreaming about how we can be a part of shaping the world in 2050! And how the 4th Lausanne Congress can be a watershed moment for global strategic collaboration – which is at the core of your own teaching and influence. Thank you Phill!

And the wonderful gift to me and Lausanne was the gift of your love and investment in Karin. She is an incredible blessing and will carry on your influence and legacy in the years to come as we together serve the global church.

Michael Oh

Even though I didn’t have enough face-to-face time with you, I got to know you a great deal from the book you wrote. I’m currently looking at the book, “Well Connected” on my desk, and I’m blessed beyond my imagination by your heart for Kingdom partnerships. I spent hours and hours reading it and translating them into Nepali. This book and the vision you had will continue to have a great impact for generations to come, and I am feeling proud to be standing and moving forward to the paths you have paved! Sending you love and prayer from Nepal, Phil!

Dwarika Shrestha

Phill, I humbly thank you and thank God for your leadership of my life into the missions world of partnering and collaborating. As you wait in the departure lounge for your last ride, be assured that many of us left behind will be carrying on your vision and legacy. Upon your arrival at your destination, I hope you won’t be too surprised to find you will no longer need to teach and write about the need for unity!! See you at the great Unity Feast of the Lamb. With our love,

Russ & Ramona Simons

Phill, My partner, encourager and mentor over these many decades. I returned last night from Vietnam and Singapore. Every conversation was to partner, exactly what you have modeled and encouraged.

l’m thinking of the global sports partnering meeting Ethan and l hosted 25 years ago. You played the critical training and mentor role. Over and over through the decades when face to face or by phone you have encouraged.

I love you Phill, and if this is your home going l look forward to our soon being together laughing and rejoicing over God’s grace!

Eddie Waxer

Phill, your long friendship with my father, Dr B E Vijayam, through Interdev, PI and Alex Aroujo, and later with me since 2004 Lausanne Forum Pattaya have left a profound impact on us. Your strong advocacy of partnership framed our philosophy of ministry in India. I thank God for using you so significantly in our lives as He did in the lives of many more leaders around the world.

Joseph Vijayam

If I were to select one word that reminds me most of Phil it would be: Kingdom.

He always spoke about The Kingdom, Kingdom priorities, kingdom work, Kingdom seeking. And how it has resonated with me, this singularity of focus, this “one thing have I desired, and that will I seek after…” attitude.

Now, in a very short time, Phil will be standing on the threshold of this very kingdom that he spent his life in pursuit after and support of.

I’m deeply grateful to have been able to see him on this side, one last time.

Scott Dickson

Dear Phill, I thank the Lord for your life! Your passionate message about unity in the Body of Christ has greatly impacted so many churches and ministries in my country. It was an honor to meet you and talk to you a few years ago. I have been so blessed by your stories, your humility and your wisdom.

Bambi Cataluna

Phill, I will always remember the years we spent at Interdev. Those years changed my life. Thank you. You brought international ministry to life for Carla and I . Thank you Phill. I remember our work together on the Tree of Life curriculum for the Bridges training network. What a privilege to work with you. You were a mentor to me and so many others. So much to say and recall. We’ll have time enough when we meet our savior Jesus Christ face to face. We love you Phill. You meant so much to both of us.

Jim and Carla Bowman

I thank God for Phill’s life. I took the training on partnership and collaboration at my younger age and since then it has completely changed the way I do ministry. Praying for Phill.

Samuel Kebreab Berhe

Dear Phill, Thank you for generously pouring into me and so many of my peers. I still remember your kind words of encouragement in the last meeting we had over breakfast in Berlin. Your wisdom, thoughtfulness and passion for Jesus have been an example to all of us.

Hala Saad

Dear Phil, your legacy of leadership, mentorship, faithfulness, vision, innovation, adventure and the list goes on will live in me and through the thousands of lives that have been and will be impacted by your journey with Jesus. I am confident you know the peace, hope and joy of God as you seek him.

Rich Lackey