Tim Keller writes:
A generation ago, it would have been hard to imagine evangelicals unable to agree on what the simple gospel is: 1) God made you and you must have a relationship with him, 2) but your sin separates you from God. 3) Jesus, God's Son took the punishment your sins deserved. 4)If you repent for your sins and trust in his work for your salvation, you will be forgiven, justified and accepted freely by grace, and indwelled with his Spirit until you die and go to heaven.
But many today challenge this way of expressing the gospel.
In A New Kind of Christian Brian McLaren's character Neo says he doesn't "think most Christians have any idea of what the gospel really is." When his interlocutor responds that he thought the gospel was "accepting Christ as your personal savior and justification by faith not works based on the finished work of Christ on the cross" Neo responds, "Yes, that's exactly what most modern Christians would say". reduc[ing] the gospel to modern dimensions, laws, steps, simple diagrams, complete with a sales close." When pressed on what the gospel is, Neo insists that it can't be reduced to a formula, other than the one Jesus used, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." He then quickly adds that we shouldn't use that short-hand either, since "everything is contextual' and the term "kingdom" would be opaque to many people today.