Life of Phill Butler
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.
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.
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.
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.”