Multiple movements have recently been sharing similar reports: “if more than three people meet together in groups, they are noticed and often reported” either to police or to religious fundamentalists in the community. The result can be official investigation or physical threats or violence from radicals.
Obviously this makes it difficult for small groups and house churches to gather. It makes “households of faith” an important factor with a very different life than a traditional Western idea of churches. It also presents unique challenges to the spread of the Gospel.
A situation of intense persecution can, however, also have an envigorating effect to the believers. Those who choose to follow Jesus will do so in an environment that requires them to count the cost prior to their commitment. I am reminded of the “buried treasure” parable: believers will have “sold all they have” in order to purchase the field.
On a practical note from a research perspective, it also makes the measurement of movements difficult. What, in this instance, is a “small group” or a “church”? Normally we think of churches as ekklesia, communities of believers and families. What if the ekklesia in a place is just an extended family? There are many kinds of messy questions like these on the edges of the frontier.