As the retired pastor of Florida’s oldest existing Baptist church, Bishop Rudolph McKissick Sr.’s reach goes far beyond the thousands he led for decades.

Growing up in Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, McKissick Sr. held various roles.

 “I always had a desire to want to do something,” McKissick Sr. said. “One thing about me, I would never say no.”

McKissick Sr. is no stranger to the church. Prior to serving as the lead pastor, he had multiple roles such as choir singer, chorus director, assistant church clerk, church school teacher, assistant deacon and deacon.

Although he was no fan of the spotlight, as a young adult, he discovered the importance of influence.

“I think I learned early if it’s in you, and God has it designed for you, he’ll bring it out of you,” McKissick Sr. said.

His love for people grew while working for the post office when he delivered mail door to door.

“There is where I really feel God was preparing me for ministry,” McKissick Sr. said. “I think he was allowing me to deal with people and their various attitudes.”

With no intent in leading one of the fastest growing churches in the city, McKissick served for a year as the interim pastor. By 1966, he became the tenth pastor of the church.

“I really asked the question, ‘would they consider me,’ and the rest is history,” McKissick said.

During Bishop McKissick Sr.’s tenure as pastor, an educational building was erected which now bears the name of 'Rudolph W. McKissick, Sr.' 

Also, a city block of property was purchased which currently houses the Main Sanctuary and Family Life Center.

For 48 years, McKissick Sr. reached thousands through his preaching. In 2014 he retired and his son, Bishop McKissick Jr., took up the mantle.

McKissick Sr. says his longevity in ministry isn’t because of anything he’s accomplished. Instead, he believes it’s a result of those he has served and continues to serve.

“I’ve always liked people. I’ve always been a leader, but I didn’t know I was a leader,” McKissick Sr. said.

McKissick has served in a variety of civic capacities including Board of Trustees at the University of North Florida, the Jacksonville Urban League, and served on the Board of Trustees of Edward Waters College for thirty years.

He's the former president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Jacksonville, and former president of the Pastor’s Conference of the National Baptist Convention and founder of the Christian Mission Center, which later became the Help Center where persons could seek counseling and housing assistance for drug/alcoholic addiction. 

After decades of shining his light, Jacksonville City Council recognized his many accomplishments by renaming a portion of Hogan Street in his honor.

Earlier this month, Mayor Lenny Curry proclaimed Feb. 4 as Rudolph W. McKissick Sr. Day.  

McKissick is the longest-serving pastor of Bethel and serves as Pastoral Counselor, at his leisure.