Bible in Ten: The tale behind the book

Bible in Ten: The tale behind the book

Bible in Ten: The tale behind the book with Dave Kitchen 

It’s about 1980. It can’t be much later because I’m still at this moment the preacher who wears red velvet trousers, does monologues, stories and poems … mainly funny ones that rhyme. Rob Lacey is a young bank clerk who does drama to make his life more interesting. We meet at youth events where I’m often the continuity man who fills the gaps and we become friends because we like the same things. He’s nearly a whole decade younger than me so I’m a bit like a wise older cousin.

One lunchtime, Rob’s bank manager catches him doing headstands in the staff room. Not illegal, you understand, but his boss does ask him if he might be bored with banking. Or indeed suited to it. So he comes round to see me and says: ‘Dave, I’ve got this great idea. Mrs Thatcher is giving people £40 a week for a year to start up in business. I’ve applied to set myself up as a Christian Arts Entrepreneur.’

Well that’s clearly bonkers and I tell him Mrs Thatcher is never going to accept him on that basis.

She already has, he tells me. What do you think?

‘Totally ridiculous,’ I tell him. ‘It’s never going to be viable. But what a great way to spend a year. You gotta go for it!’

And he does. Also, it turns out, I’m wrong. It is viable. Just about.

Rob takes to the road and I don’t see much of him. But I hear quite a bit. The one man shows are creating quite a stir and he’s become a favourite at major events like Spring Harvest.

The big break comes when the publishers Collins commission him to write The Street Bible – a  shortened version of the Bible aimed at young people. It becomes Christian Book of the Year in 2004 and Rob returns back to Cardiff to be co-director of the Gate Arts Centre with Sandra his wife.

Told like that, it’s a lovely story but Rob is struggling with bladder cancer and it’s very tough. I meet him one day by chance in the supermarket and the trolley seems to be all that’s keeping him upright.

The doctors do their best with his cancer and amazingly it goes into remission. Life seems possible again and I get to work with Rob on a school’s version of the Street Bible. We had such fun on that but I knew he still wasn’t well. A small group of us met to pray every week. It felt like no one anywhere had ever prayed as hard as we were for healing. But I guess everyone thinks that. And we didn’t get what we asked for. Rob started to go downhill. The cancer was back.     

He understood and accepted that before any of us. But he wanted the work of refreshing the way we looked at the bible to go on. I was up for that but he told me there was no need to use his materials. Instead, I should write my own because then it would carry my own voice and be more powerful.

I started with Leviticus because Rob said that was the hardest. It’s the only part of Bible in Ten that he saw. Not bad at all, he admitted, especially given that it’s Leviticus.

Then he left us. The fight with cancer was lost.  And I continued, little by little, until I had, not just Leviticus, but all the others. Each one in ten minutes or less. It took a decade of Sunday morning worship services to write and try them all out. People got used to me saying: ‘Make yourself comfortable, we’re taking a ride through Nehemiah today.

It took another five years to bash the spoken version into a shape that looked like a book. But I never gave up because Rob never gave up. Even when cancer may seem to have won, it hadn’t. Because some things are always left behind as marks of a life well lived … and this book is one such thing.


David Kitchen is an award-winning writer, broadcaster, teacher and storyteller who has been making the Bible come alive for longer than he cares to remember. In Bible in Ten he combines his down-to-earth writing skills with almost 50 years’ experience in church leadership and worship. His hobbies include music, poetry and playing crawling-up-stairs games with his grandson.



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